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Chapter 1: Introduction 1 Introduction
Chapter 1
Chapter 1: Introduction
This study aims to develop an understanding of what happens when two differing tertiary cultures
established on different continents, meet around a common subject in a computer-mediated situation.
Due to technology the focus has changed from an ordinary classroom to a virtual meeting place,
resulting in the classroom being part of the international world. Technological progress can shift the
teacher’s activities from delivering content to that of facilitator, ensuing interactive learning. Online
courses presented from remote national and international institutions can be assessed while the
student is enrolled at a local institution.
In 2004 two Professors from the Department of Education of the University of Pretoria (UP), South
Africa together with a research assistant visited Stanford University, United States of America to
explore the possibilities of cooperation between Stanford and UP. The purpose of the collaboration
was to introduce an existing Stanford international security course to a South African Higher Education
Institution (HEI). Stanford first offered this same course in Russia in the fall 2000 to the following
institutions: Amur State University, Moscow Higher School of Economics, North Ossetian State
University, Petrozavodsk State University, Saratov State University, Southern Ural State University,
Ural State University, Yakutsk State University, and Yaroslavl State University. The instructor was a
Professor from the Center for Environmental Science and Policy (CESP) at Stanford. The course was
contextualised by complementing excellent English-language articles with the best of the Russianlanguage articles. This was done a) to present the Russian point of view on topics sensitive to both
Russia and the United States and b) to offer students a broader view than only the Stanford employed
Russian instructors at each institution. The instructors held weekly seminar sessions with the students
in an attempt to apply students’ feedback from the lectures to the Russian context. The sessions also
served as quality control and motivation for the students. From the outset it was decided that UP
would play an investigative role, and that other South African universities will be invited to participate
in the project as South African partners whose students should benefit from the course. The
investigative role was to find out what happens when two differing tertiary cultures meet around a
common subject in a computer-mediated situation, and why does it happen? The research assistant
acted as data collector at this early stage as no researcher was available. Her instructions were to
record as neutrally and accurately as possible what was happening during the first discussions effectively acting as administrative and general support assistant. She acted as such during the UP
team’s initial visit to Stanford in November 2004.
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During this initial visit to Stanford it became clear that positive as well as negative aspects would be
part of the project. One of the first differences arose around basic terminology. Stanford and UP did
not necessarily attach the same connotations to concepts such as course, component, module,
programme and unit. However, both institutions had the same interpretation of the integration of
teaching and research, the utilisation of technology to enable distance learning to take place, and the
use of a model of local support.
Early in 2005 meetings were conducted with various role players in Limpopo and Pretoria, with the
research assistant still acting as administrative and general support assistant. These role players
included representatives from the University of Limpopo (UL), Tshwane University of Technology
(TUT) as well as a delegation from Stanford. The purpose of the discussions was to identify possible
future partners, encourage participation and to establish a potential strategic partnership network. At
that stage it became clear that the cultural divide between Stanford and South Africa was presenting
enormous obstacles.
The conflict arose because different institutional goals were pursued. UP wished to generate research
results, Stanford wished to put into effect an externally funded project, while TUT wished to be part of
an international project. Yet initially there was a mutual will to participate. A central research question
thus emerged: What happens when an international learning module, compiled by an American
university is adapted for a South African HEI, and implemented in a computer-mediated situation, and
why does it happen? The project was registered at Stanford under the code-name “ELISA” (eLearning Initiative in South Africa). This study involves the pilot phase of the Stanford e-Learning
Initiative in South Africa. In short the purpose of this project was to find out what happened when two
differing tertiary cultures meet around a common subject in a computer-mediated situation, and why
does it happen? At this stage the administrative and general support assistant had to withdraw from
the project to concentrate on her own Doctoral studies, and I was asked to continue in her role as
research assistant. My instructions were to continue recording data from an epistemologically neutral
Theory and methodology
The organic nature of this project has to be acknowledged from the start. In the same way as the
research question came into being as the project developed, I started exploring the concept of
cooperation and cooperative learning at organisational level. The purpose of cooperation was to work
together in order to accomplish shared goals. It became evident that the essential elements of
cooperative learning at organisational level could be used in which to frame the research, resulting in
a theoretical framework as illustrated in figure 1. I used the following five elements of cooperative
learning to construct the outer frame of the theoretical framework: Positive interdependence,
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promotive interaction, individual accountability, social skills, and group processing (Johnson &
Johnson, 1994). The problem statement namely what happened in the ELISA international partnering
intervention, is represented in a second frame within the layer framework. Finally, the purpose of the
study, namely cooperation, shared meaning, shared goals, and commonality, is represented by the
innermost frame.
Figure 1: Theoretical framework
Cooperation and cooperative learning
Outcome of intervention
Social skills
Source: Johnson, Johnson & Holubec (1994)
International outreach programmes are often characterised by various cultural questions and issues
such as differences and commonalities. In order to find middle ground between the two very diverse
cultures, I explored some cultural differences and commonalities. Initially the work of Geert Hofstede
(1980a) was considered. Hofstede is well known in the field of computers and culture, as he
investigated cultural differences in branches of the IBM corporation in 72 countries. Hofstede’s view on
culture is mentioned under cultural dimensions (Chapter 1, 9.6.3). However, Professor Cronjé’s work
in Sudan (Cronjé, 2006) showed that, while Hofstede was strong on cultural differences, he was not
good at explaining commonality. Professor Cronjé used a conceptual framework to illustrate the
difference between local and global role players and how to achieve commonality (Chapter 1, figure
2). At the other end of the scale Henry Giroux’s border pedagogy, while interested in crossing borders,
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was not strong on cultural clashes. Furthermore, consultations with a cultural expert (UP cultural
expert, personal communication, October 31, 2006) showed that, whatever theoretical foundation one
would choose (multi-culturalism, interculturalism, etc.) would mean that one would necessarily exclude
the other, thus there was a constant “lose-lose” situation.
Differing conceptions of culture are discussed under cultural differences (Chapter 1, 9.6.3). The
research was about the effect of commonalities and cultural differences on cooperative learning at
organisational level. A clear African perspective was missing, as was a clear American perspective.
The UL was not interested in cooperation with Stanford, resulting in Stanford, UP and TUT as main
participants in the ELISA project. I started taking notes in the real-life situation by analysing all emails
between Stanford, UP and TUT. All emails form part of the data as discussed under Data (Chapter 1,
12). From the 578 emails between these institutions I identified various different connotations. While
taking notes I realised that the emails reflected values such as truth, justice, fairness, performance,
enterprise, authority, personal power, conflict, personal insecurity, survival of self, victimisation,
aggression and destruction, particular obsession, particular ability, creativity, innovation, anger,
bitterness, revenge, negativity. It also included affinity, trust, selection, succession, speed of decision,
influence, impulsiveness, charisma, short documentation, individualism, role division, stability,
predictability, efficiency, conformity, problem solving, expertise, task orientation, enthusiasm,
commitment and variety. I then coded my notes and grouped them into categories. I started to read
literature on culture, cultural diversity (commonalities, contradictions and differences), educational
technology, bridging the Digital Divide, the effect of globalisation on education and Higher Education
Institutions in South Africa and in the United States. That is when the work of Professor Lovemore
Mbigi & Maree (2005) of Zimbabwe mentioned under cultural dimensions (Chapter 1, 9.6.3) became
interesting. Mbigi & Maree, in a popular work, put forward that, in African organisations several cultural
“spirits” exist – such as a spirit of defiance, a spirit of revenge, a fighting spirit, etc. In his introduction,
Mbigi pays tribute to the popular American writer Dr Charles Handy, and mentions the influence of his
book Gods of management (1991), which identifies some elements of Greek mythology that still exists
in current Euro-American organisations – such as the warrior, the lover, etc. Comparing the works of
Mbigi and Handy it was clear that the cultural values symbolised by the African spirits and the Greek
gods could match the values pertained in the emails, thus fitting into cultural dimensions Thus it was
decided that a grounded theory approach, discussed under Methodology (Chapter 1, 11) would be
taken to the research. I was advised to continue collecting data, while at the same time starting to read
the literature on grounded theory research, culture and education. A clear step-by-step description of
the grounded theory method is illustrated by Dick (2005). In essence it means that one starts in a reallife situation and you take notes, mentioned under Data (Chapter 1, 12). Then you group your notes
into categories. Then you start adding theoretical literature as data. The aim is “to discover the theory
implicit in the data” (ibid.)
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Within this context then, the method that I followed was to read through the data already collected by
the administrative and general support assistant (emails that she received and saved, minutes of
meetings and journal entries) and to engage in “note taking”. Her data only pertained to the
exploratory phase of the project both in Stanford and in South Africa. I continued with the note taking
as “secretarial” research assistant to the South African coordinator and TUT team leader. My data
started when the course commended on 3 February 2006. The ELISA project became a case study
that I employed as a research strategy. The purpose was to gain a meaningful understanding of the
situation and significance for the participants of the South African and US teams. The ELISA project
was an example of a case study that provided a major account of the phenomenon of cooperation and
cooperative learning at organisational level. The case study was anchored in the real-life situation of
the participants and contributed to the rich and thick description of the phenomenon.
Then I thoroughly analysed the literature on culture and education as I came across it, still engaging in
note taking. In the mean time I started broadening my data collection by engaging in open-ended
interviews, discussed under Interviews with key participants (Chapter 1, 12.2.2). Some participants
were suggested by the TUT team leader, others were selected because the emergent data suggested
that they would have a contribution to make. I conducted four open-ended interviews in Stanford and
two interviews in Pretoria as these contributed to the process of building towards a theory and
generating a hypothesis.
I conducted the first interview with a Director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
(FSIIS); the second interview with another Director of the FSIIS and the Stanford team leader; the third
interview with a Director of International Programs, Stanford Center for Innovations in Learning (SCIL);
and the fourth interview with the first teaching assistant. I asked the interviewees about their role in the
project, their expectations at the beginning of the International Distance Learning (IDL) program and
important aspects of the program. During the interviews I continued with note taking. I recorded all the
interviews and transcribed them. I conducted two interviews in South Africa. The first interview was
with the administrative and support assistant to the ELISA project, and the second interview was with
the South African ELISA project organiser and the UP team leader. I asked the administrative and
support assistant about the origin of the project and the role that she played during the early phases,
both in Stanford and South Africa. In the interview with the UP team leader I focused on the dialogue
between First World universities and their counterparts in developing countries, the creation of shared
meaning as well as positive and negative aspects of the study.
In Stanford I did observations and took notes during discussions with an Associate Professor of
Education (Teaching); and with the second teaching assistant and asked them related questions. The
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second teaching assistant was responsible for selecting the reading material for the assignments
which formed part of the international program that the TUT students participated in. The first teaching
assistant in her capacity of teaching assistant to the ELISA project provided valuable information on
education and culture.
Observations of academic activities that I attended are discussed under Data collection (Chapter 1,
12.1). It is important to keep in mind that the virtual classroom connected experts from Stanford and
educators and students from TUT to collaborate synchronously as well as asynchronously. Access to
asynchronous wireless technology enabled the learners to communicate when necessary as South
African time (GMT+2) differs from Stanford University (GMT-8) resulting in a ten hour difference. The
Academic Technology Specialist of Wallenburg Hall, (SCIL) Stanford, accompanied me on a guided
tour of this state-of-the-art technology centre. He demonstrated Stanford’s use of technological
devices in education. I attended a graduate Political Science lecture on Major Issues in International
Conflict Management by a Professor of Political Science, Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli
Institute (FSI), Stanford. The content of this lecture focused on international organisations and global
security, mediation, conflict prevention and peacekeeping. The use of highly sophisticated
technological equipment during this lecture was contrasted by a traditional board–and-chalk
freshman’s lecture by a Professor on explaining ethnic violence. The purpose of the attendance of
these lectures was to compare different technological aspects of teaching and learning. I continued to
take notes and attended a lecture on Urban Education; as well as a lecture on building a Wiki “On-Line
learning Communities”. All these interviews, discussions and observations took place at Stanford. The
administrative and general support assistant did not do interviews but she generated data. The
abovementioned data that I generated, were imported into the computer programme ATLAS.ti™ I
used ATLAS.ti™ to search through the data for emergent themes and to code these.
It was hoped that the emergent themes, as they arise both from praxis, and from the literature, could
be grouped into sense-making units, and thus contribute to our understanding of what happens when
two vastly different cultures meet.
Cultural limitations
The American colleagues did not present any physical lectures in South Africa because the course
was taught technologically. A limiting factor of this research is that, while the group of American
presenters subscribe to a very clear “Stanford” culture, the South African participants represented
Afrikaans, English, Indian, isiZulu and Sesotho cultures. Thus it was hard to find a clear “African”
theory for the study. It was precisely because of this dichotomy between a homogeneous Stanford
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culture, and a hard-to-define South African target population that the study became interesting,
although we are fully aware that these results could not be generalized. It was my intention to provide
a picture of what happened in this very interesting, very diverse case, and in so doing to contribute,
from a unique angle, to the discourse of the meeting of cultures and a cooperative learning process.
Stanford withdrew after one year of three. This study does not investigate why, as I believe that there
is enough data for a whole new study into why relationships went down.
The rationale for the study was to contribute to the growing body of stories on cooperation and
cooperative learning at organisational level between HEIs in developing and developed countries. This
study explored the influence of various inter-relating aspects such as cooperation and cooperative
learning at organisational level, HEIs, distance-learning technologies, the effect of globalisation on
education, an international learning programme, the impact of the Digital Divide, cultural diversity, and
power relations in an international partnership.
Cooperation means that individuals and group members work together to accomplish shared goals
(Johnson, Johnson, & Holubec, 1994). Cooperative learning in the classroom enables students to
work together in small groups to master assigned material and take full advantage of individual and
group learning. Five essential elements are instrumental to ensure successful cooperative learning.
These elements are positive interdependence, face-to-face promotive interaction, individual
accountability, social skills, and group processing (Johnson & Johnson, 1994). The abovementioned
essential elements were used to explain the idea of cooperative learning at organisational level.
Distance-learning technologies could be regarded as critical links between institutions and students by
linking experts and learners at numerous sites and making human and informational resources
extensively available (Chute, Thompson, & Hancock, 1998). The use of technologies such as
telephone conferences, video conferences, online lectures, synchronous and asynchronous
communication, information and communication technologies (ICTs), WebCT6 as well as wireless
personal digital assistants (PDAs) were used to explore how the distance learning experience for TUT
students might be enhanced.
Globalisation with regard to education strove for the enforcement of an increasing intellectual
colonised world. Developed countries worldwide strove to force their predominant cultural values and
behavioural patterns on to those of the weaker developing countries (Drahos, 2002; Pogge, 2005).
These so-called weaker developing countries took a stand against this tendency resulting in the
question of what are the reactions of such developing countries?
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An important effect of globalisation on education was the international collaboration and educational
progress and development which took place. The expertise of world famous environmental specialists
was available to learners in remote areas. A combination of online as well as wireless communication
contributed to the dissemination of information and acquisition of knowledge as well as to the
enhancement of teaching and learning. These available educational opportunities resulted in
broadening the perspectives of learners, stimulating creativity, spontaneity and critical thinking.
Watson, cited in Suarez-Orozco and Qin-Hilliard (2004, p. 158) summarises as follows: “Information
wants to be free”. The effect of globalisation on an international learning module was studied.
The Digital Divide, an expression of [some] of the differences between the affluent North and the
impoverished South, reflected in education on learners with access to technology and those without.
The implications of the Digital Divide on the contextualisation of an international learning module were
In exploring cross-cultural transfer of learning materials from the United States to South Africa, it was
significant to take Western and non-Western cultural diversity and situational reality of the South
African educational environment and learners into consideration. The “Rainbow African Spirits Theory”
(Mbigi & Maree, 2005) characterised potential principal cultural dimensions and values which were
drawn from original African spirits. The cultural values of the predominantly Western world as
symbolised by the ancient Greek Gods (Handy, 1991) were plotted against the cultural dimensions of
the African spirits, resulting in evident contradictions and commonalities. The influence of some of the
cultural differences between the United States and South Africa as it reflected in a tertiary educational
environment was evaluated.
International partnerships between HEIs in different positions are becoming a world-wide tendency.
Powerful interaction in relationships of international partnerships may become challenging at times
when specific goals and needs of the participating institutions have to be served despite agreed upon
mutually-beneficial cooperation. Important aspects of international partnerships include different
models of distance education such as joint programs, direct marketing or franchise arrangements
(Bates, 1999). Motivation for international distance education include the following: Generation of
revenues, demand for programs, provision of expertise, knowledge and skills, enhancement of the
institution’s international profile, international participation, generation of research expansion, lodging
externally funded projects, and curriculum expansion. Benefits for both partners should be clearly
stated. Equality between providers and recipients depend on the international distance education
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Research problem
The purpose of the study is to determine the aspects across national and cultural borders that
influence the construction of common meaning across cultures.
Research question
The main research question was formulated from the issues mentioned in the background:
What happens when two differing tertiary cultures meet around a common subject in a computermediated situation, and why does it happen?
Central question
What happens when an international learning module, compiled by an American university is
adapted for a South African HEI, and implemented in a computer-mediated context?
Critical questions
What dialogue emerges and why does it emerge?
How and why is shared meaning created and why is it created?
How do we deal with cultural differences?
Which aspects of the process work well and why and how can they be improved to
compensate for those that do not work well?
Which aspects do not work well and why and how can they be improved?
Literature study
In order to answer the above questions I explored the following aspects namely cooperation and
cooperative learning on organisational level, the effect of educational technology, the significance of
an Higher Education Institution, the effectiveness of an international learning programme, the role
globalisation, the Digital Divide, cultural diversity, and models of cultural dimensions, and power
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relations in international partnerships. It was necessary to explore the role of educational technology
as a critically important tool to participate in an international learning programme at a HEI. The
investigation of the Digital Divide focused on international issues of global importance and
emphasised and stimulated local content development. The study of cultural differences was essential
to create cultural awareness resulting in “developing interculturally competent students” described by
MacKinnon and Manathunga, as cited in Cronjé (2009, p. 69).
Educational technology
Technology became the motto of the 21st century. It afforded learners all over the world endless
opportunities to communicate and enhanced their educational and technical environments. The effect
of technology on education was that information was no longer restricted to a single geographical
setting, instead it expanded and became a dynamic international driving force. Wireless technologies
erased time and geographical constraints and enabled world-wide access between continents.
Swiniarski and Breitborde (2003) accentuated the open-ended nature of access through technology.
Due to wireless technologies the teaching and learning process needed not be interrupted. “School is
always in session because school is always there” (Ko & Rossen, 2004, p. 3).
Technology enabled the use of learning objects, which were defined as follows: “Learning objects are
elements of a new type of computer-based instruction grounded in the object-oriented paradigm of
computer science” (Wiley, 2002, p. 4). Reusable learning objects such as small instructional
components deliverable over the Internet can be engaged in multiple contexts in diverse learning
Higher Education Institutions
Higher education in South Africa focused on future perspectives such as the preparation of
universities “…to embrace the future in a global world” (Pityana, 2004, p. 2). As result of governmentmandated mergers twenty-three HEIs were formed to reshape and meet the needs of tertiary
education. Three former technikons merged to form TUT which consists of six campuses namely GaRankuwa, Nelspruit, Polokwane, Soshanguve, Tshwane and Witbank. TUT was at that stage “the
largest residential HEI in South Africa…It is well positioned to meet the higher education needs of
different communities in South Africa” (Stanford team leader, 2006).
The TUT mission was to “…create, apply and transfer knowledge and technology of an international
standard through cooperative professional career education programmes at undergraduate and
postgraduate levels; …extend the parameters of technological innovation by making knowledge useful
through focused applied research and development; and establish and maintain a strategic
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partnership network locally and internationally for the mutual benefit of the institution and partners”
(Tshwane University of Technology, 2005). TUT is technologically well-equipped, a feature which
enables the transfer and portability of learning materials and international learning programmes. The
study was conducted at the Department of Journalism, located at the Tshwane campus.
International learning programme
An International Environment Politics programme that focused on universal environment themes,
identified problems and future problems and perverse outcomes, was presented. This programme
consisted of sixteen lectures and was delivered by means of CD-ROMs supplemented by additional
reading material selected by the Stanford academic and technical team. The lectures were also
posted on WebCT6. I filled the role of participative researcher in collaboration with the technical
assistant at Telematic Education at TUT. The Head of the Department of Journalism at TUT and
instructional designers at Telematic Education were responsible for the finalisation and capturing of
the content.
The effect of globalisation seemed to be that the world was getting smaller and more compressed
(Tayeb, 2001). It resulted in the emergence of a “global village” (Suarez-Orozco & Qin-Hilliard, 2004,
p. 16) with close contact between the countries. Increasing communication and personal exchange
between countries was common knowledge. It created accumulative consciousness of other role
players in the world.
It could be argued that globalisation had an indispensable and unforeseeable effect on education. This
resulted in substantial significance but also in a cause for controversy. The paradox of globalisation
lay in the contrasting views of this increasing intercontinental dynamic force: having noticeable positive
as well as negative aspects. The proponents of globalisation accentuated the concept of multiple
perspectives (Mason, 1998) to broaden cultural awareness and the potential of learners.
Globalisation required growth and evolution in order to bridge global and cultural gaps. The poor
should be provided with opportunities to better their lives and bridge the aforementioned gaps.
Globalisation enables learners to achieve “greater appreciation for cultural complexity and diversity”
(Suarez-Orozco & Qin-Hilliard, 2004, p. xi). Seeing globalisation as an opportunity instead of a
disadvantage, it could be described as “positive, promoting economic development and intercultural
exchanges” (Suarez-Orozco & Qin-Hilliard, 2004, p. 7). Learners had to adapt to new technologies
and blend information from multiple sources ensuring lifelong learning.
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Digital Divide
ICTs are transforming the world. Digital technologies are accelerating with the revolutionary potential
of causing dramatic educational, economic, social and cultural changes. Castells (2001, p. 247)
accentuates the crucial role of the Internet as a tool to accomplish “freedom, productivity and
communication”. He points out that on the one hand the Internet is the basis of emerging technical and
social development, but the Internet is on the other hand the basis of the Digital Divide, causing
uneven development all over the globe. A consequence of the Digital Divide in education is learners
and educators with access to technology (the well-resourced) and those without (the underresourced).
Castells refers to the meaning of the Digital Divide as “inequality of access to the internet” (2001, p.
247). He continues to say that due to the fact that the Internet is the basis of emerging technical and
social development, uneven development all over the globe is possibly the most remarkable
manifestation of the Digital Divide. The conceptual model illustrated below (Cronjé, 2009, p. 70)
indicates the Digital Divide between global well-resourced learners and the local under-resourced
learners. Cronjé accentuates the fact that “The more global something becomes, the less its local
relevance, the more local things become, the less globally competitive or useful it will be”. He
emphasises that increasing either of the two sides would result in the increase of the Digital Divide. To
reach commonality, one has to distinguish fundamental aspects on both sides and start working from
there. Professor Cronjé’s work in Sudan is mentioned under Theory and methodology (Chapter 1, 3).
Figure 2: Digital Divide
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Source: Cronjé (2009)
Cultural differences
The phrase cross-cultural transfer, as suggested in the title of this study, necessitates an in-depth
exploration of culture and its attributes. Researching the term in the social sciences retrieved a
number of differing perceptions of culture. Tayeb (2001, p. 98) refers to culture as a “woolly concept”
and emphasises that there is a “difficulty in achieving a parity of meaning of concepts such as culture
and its components when conducting research across two or more countries”.
Differing conceptions underlie the range of definitions of culture as mentioned under Theory and
methodology (Chapter 1, 3). Culture can be regarded as cultivation, as tradition, as items of
information, as a system of symbols, as social process, as motive and (even) as emotion (Erickson,
2001). These are all examples of the diverse possible views. Culture exists in a variety of subsets of
human endeavor that together combine as the essence emanating from a variety of nations (Coertze,
1959). The following attributes are present in all cultures: a language, a social organisation, religion or
a similar phenomenon, a system of technical creations, an economic organisation and activities, an
educational system, a governmental or judicial system, a system of literary contributions, a philosophic
and knowledge system, and a system of aesthetics, being creations in the context of art in one form or
another such as sound, colour, rhythm or line that manifests itself through a variety of media (Coertze,
1959). Coffey, cited in Mahalingam and McCarthy (2000, p. 38) refers to culture as “…an aesthetic
phenomenon, restricting it to the intellectual and creative activity of the so-called best and brightest of
any given society”. Williams defines culture as a “particular way of life, whether of a people, a period,
or a group” (Mahalingham & McCarthy, 2000, p. 38).
Critical aspects common to all cultures pertain to common “cultural mindsets” (Gannon & Associates,
1994, p. 5). This concept entails that members of a particular society have the same basic ways of
thinking, feeling and acting. Hofstede (1980b, p. 43) refers to culture as the “collective mental
programming of people in an environment”. Culture is characteristic of a number of people who share
the same life experiences, and have created a number of institutions together.
Cultural experts discern between dominant or hegemonic cultures and subordinate or lower cultures
(Carrim, 1998; Gandhi, 1998; Mahalingham & McCarthy, 2000; Rudman, 2003). Acculturation and
enculturation theories are subdivisions of culture and entail different approaches. All human beings
adopt or react to aspects of new cultures that they encounter. “Acculturation comprehends those
phenomena which result when groups of individuals having different cultures come into continuous
first-hand contact, with subsequent changes in the original culture patterns of either or both groups”
(Rudman, 2003, p. 49). Enculturation involves the extent of identification with ethnic culture,
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participation in cultural activities and a pride in cultural heritage (Dyer, Ramirez-Valles, Walter,
Washiensko, & Zimmerman, 1996). It also involves shared values (Dahl, 2004), an awareness of
traditional ethnic cultures, extolling the virtues of tradition, and the process of transferring cultural
values from the senior ranks to the junior members of a particular society.
There are different schools of thought about what culture is and how the variant views impinge on
society. There are, for example, the Postcolonial theory, the Critical Race theory, the Anti-Racist
theory and the theory of Multicultural Education. The Postcolonial theory (Gandhi, 1998, p. ix)
concentrates predominantly on “the needs of the Western academy. It attempts to reform the
intellectual and epistemological exclusions of this academy, and enables non-Western critics, located
in the West, to present their cultural inheritance as knowledge”. The Postcolonial theory regards nonWestern culture and knowledge as ‘differing’ from the normative ‘self’ of Western epistemology and
rationality. The knowledge systems of areas such as Africa, India, Korea or China are not worth
considering and historical and cultural conversations tend to keep a low profile. Bhabha (1994, p. 140)
argues “I am attempting to write of the Western nation as an obscure and ubiquitous form of living the
locality of culture”. Willinsky, cited in Hickling-Hudson (2003) emphasizes that the legacies of
imperialism, similar to that of colonialism, still continue within institutions, for example in Australia.
The Critical Race theory accentuates the black-white binary (Delgado & Stefanic, 2000) and it
highlights racism as a normal phenomenon in American society. Rosen (2000, p. 586) argues
accordingly and adds that the accomplishment of “formal equality” did not succeed to eradicate the
prevalent racism that Anglo-Americans experience on a daily basis. The belief that racism is normal
rather than aberrant results in the view that blacks “perceive particular events in American law and
culture differently than whites” (Delgado & Stefanic, 2000, p. xvi). Their second premise underlying the
Critical Race theory is that a culture creates its own social reality in customs that advance its own selfinterest. Scholars construct it in the form of storytelling using words, stories and even periods of
silence. A third premise is “interest convergence” coined by Derrick Bell, cited in Delgado & Stefanic
(2000, p. xvii). This concept involves that white elites will promote or tolerate racial progress for blacks
on condition that such progress also advances white self-interest.
The Anti-Race theory (Carrim, 1998, p. 1) involves “…a redefinition of the culture prevalent in schools
throughout the country and a shift in mentality, from being racist, undemocratic and authoritarian to
being non-racial, democratic and enabling”. The focus moves from race to ethnicity and assimilation.
Multicultural education as defined by Delgado-Gaitan & Treuba, cited in Gay (2000, p. 194) refers to
culture as “…a dynamic system of social values, cognitive codes, behavioral standards, worldviews,
and beliefs used to give order and meaning to our own lives as well as the lives of others”. According
to Gay (2000) culture is multidimensional and changes continuously.
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9.6.1 The effect of cultural differences and dynamics for the social context in
South Africa
Culture is an ever-changing social construct and many different cultures exist side by side in South
Africa. New cultures are constantly changing and reforming and being created within the political,
technical and social frameworks “…socialization in different cultural systems produces different modes
of speaking and thinking” (Gay, 2000, p. 82). Pai, cited in Gay (2000, p. 9) emphasises the fact that
“…education is a sociocultural process. Hence, a critical examination of the role of culture in human
life is indispensable to the understanding and control of educative processes”.
Social researchers distinguish between absolute and relative cultural values. Absolute values
resemble the legacy of classic philosophers such as Aristotle or Plato. These form the pillars of every
society resulting in the human race having consensus of it. The controversy regarding culture involves
the relative cultural values. These values emerge in modern culture and their arguments last from
between ten to fifteen years. They are characterized by passing trends such as the computer era of
the 1990’s, currently the Digital Divide and technological development, the all-enveloping consumer
tidal-wave of the multiplicity of television and video possibilities, cell phone dynamics, personal digital
devices and the abounding, never-saturated recreational and the splurge of techniques to still further
adapt the environment to the needs of human beings.
9.6.2 The implication of cultural differences in terms of this study
The International Environment Politics Programme, started by Stanford, contains a specific political
message. The implication of this is that it is set against the background of a developed country, trying
to identify issues of global importance and then attempting to provide resources, expertise and
answers to a developing country. This coincides with an educational goal of globalisation of developed
countries that strives to force predominant cultural values and behavioral patterns on to those of the
weaker developing countries (Drahos, 2002; Pogge, 2005). These so-called developing countries take
a stand against this tendency resulting in the question: What are the reactions of such countries?
It is a given that adherents of different cultures communicate differently. From the literature it is
apparent that the Critical Race theory uses storytelling as a way of communication (Delgado &
Stefanic, 2000). Storytelling may be described as intellectual strategy (Rosen, 2000) to convey a
message. Rosen argues that “African Americans not only have different experiences, they also have
different ways of communicating and understanding them…no event or text has an objective meaning,
that each community of readers must determine how the text will be understood” (Rosen, 2000, p.
587). The African-American perspective correlates with the notion of the African Spirits (Mbigi &
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Maree, 2005) that uses traditional African concepts to convey modern Western theories. The question
arises how Stanford expects to implement the ELISA project in South Africa without taking the social
context into consideration?
9.6.3 Cultural dimensions
“Culture is more often a source of conflict than of synergy. Cultural differences are a nuisance at best
and often a disaster” (Hofstede, 2003, p. 2).
As has already been stated in the section under Theory and methodology (Chapter 1, 3) it is hard to
find a unified theoretical point of departure for studies on culture. Since I work in the field of computers
and education I decided to start my research with the work of the Dutch author Geert Hofstede, who is
the most well-known theorist on culture in the world of computing. He did his research in the branches
of the IBM corporation in 72 countries, and it is generally accepted that his is the largest quantitative
study about culture in organisations to date (Hofstede, 1980a).
Cultural differences between nations and organisations can be interpreted against the background of
different models of cultural dimensions. According to Hofstede (1980a) these cultural differences
between organisations and nations are based on the following four dimensions: Power Distance Index
(PDI), Individualism (IDV), Masculinity (MAS) and Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI). Later on he
introduced Long-Term Orientation (LTO) as a fifth dimension (Hofstede, 1991).
Critiques against Hofstede’s models include the contribution of Søndergaard (Enger, 2004) who aims
his conclusions on the following points: “Surveys are inappropriate instruments to measure culture;
unit on analysis of nations is not the best unit suited for studying culture; one company can’t provide
information about entire national cultures; the IBM data is old and obsolete and four dimensions can’t
tell the whole story”. McSweeney (2002, p. 22) identified two significant problems concerning
Hofstede’s dimensions. “First, the generalisations about national level culture from an analysis of subnational populations necessarily relies on the unproven, and unprovable supposition that within each
nation there is a uniform national culture and on the widely contested assertion that micro-local data
from a section of IBM employees is representative of that supposed national uniformity. Second, the
elusiveness of culture. It was argued that what Hofstede ‘identified’ is not national culture, but an
averaging of situationally specific opinions from which dimensions or aspects, of national culture are
unjustifiably inferred”.
The stance of this study is in support of the Hofstedian argument, emphasising cultural differences
between people at organisational level. The images of the ancient Greek Gods can be used to
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symbolise different cultural values (Handy, 1991) that are discernible in management styles in the
Western world. The different cultural values are illustrated in table 1.
Table 1: Symbolisation of Greek Gods
The cultural values
The Greek Gods
Club Culture
Role Culture
Task Culture
Existential Culture
Source: Handy (1991)
Zeus represents the Club Culture, represented by the spider’s web. Organisations that use this
cultural form have division-based work or results as the norm. The lines encircling the centre of the
web (similar to the lines on an organisation chart) are the crucial lines as they symbolise power,
influence, impulsiveness and charisma. Speed of decision is an important characteristic of the club
culture. Situations where speed is essential will gain from this management style. Speed is, however,
not a guarantee of quality, as quality does not depend on speed but on the competence of the role
Selection and succession of leaders are critical variables. Empathy plays a vital role and relies on
affinity and trust which are easily established between members of the same club culture. Nepotism
should not be summarily disregarded; on the contrary, it can be a significant source of empathy.
“These cultures, then, are clubs of like-minded people…working on empathetic initiative with personal
contact rather than formal liaison” (Handy, 1991, p.22). Trust founded on personal contact is one of
the main principles of the club culture. However, empathy without trust can be dangerous as it can be
used against a member. A club culture values its members, invests in them and the advancement of
personal contact by means of telephonic communication and travelling. Speed is important; a delay is
regarded as being more costly than a mistake which can be rectified later.
Apollo represents the Role Culture, illustrated as a Greek temple that draws its power and splendour
from its pillars. The pillars symbolise function and role division in the organisation. This culture
accentuates the definition of the role and the performance of its employees, not their personalities. It
believes that man is rational and emphasises the logical analysis of things. The main characteristics
are prescribed roles, job descriptions, work-flow charts, rules and procedures that embody the
organisation. The pillars are joined at the top by the pediment, symbolising the board of directors,
management committee or president. Stability and predictability will ensure that the past, present and
future will be the same, while technological advances will create more stability. “Individuals in the role
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culture are, therefore, part of the machine…The individual is he, or she, who is slotted into it” (Handy,
1991, p.24). Efficiency is a vital component of the role culture. Change embodies a threat to the role
culture and members first ignore it, followed by doing more of the same activities. Role cultures react
to change by organising cross-functional cooperation in an endeavour to keep the structure together.
Athena represents the Task Culture, illustrated by a net that draws resources from diverse parts of the
organisational structure in order to accentuate a specific problem. Power is centred at the interstices
of the net. The organisation consists of loosely-linked, independent units with a particular responsibility
within a general strategy. Solution of problems, expertise, talent, creativity and innovation are the main
characteristics of the task culture. Youth, energy, enthusiasm, joint commitment, mutual respect and
helpfulness add to the success and generate variety instead of predictability. Task cultures are
expensive due to experts who demand their market price. The latest technologies create a temporary
monopoly during which higher charges can cover the cost of the task culture. Task cultures often don’t
last long and failure is one of the problems that are not solved easily. “Task cultures don’t easily
weather storms” (Handy, 1991, p. 31).
Dionysus represents the Existential Culture which assumes that the individual is responsible for his
own destiny and that a higher purpose in life does not exist. The organisation is subordinate to the
individual and exists to facilitate the individual in accomplishing his purpose. Individual talents and
skills are the fundamental assets of the organisation resulting in professionalism and individualism
being part of this culture. Members are often young, normally talented and benefit from job security,
approved fee scales, allocated influence spheres and independence. Management in the existential
culture is an unpleasant task and not highly regarded. Professionals do not readily accept instructions
or compromises. “Every teacher likes to be the uninterrupted king in his own classroom, just as every
doctor is god of his consulting room. You enter by invitation only, criticise on request, command by
consent” (Handy, 1991, p. 33).
Research perspective
Theory Building
The purpose of research is to understand the world and this understanding “is informed by how
we view our world(s), what we take understanding to be, and what we see as the purposes of
understanding” (Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2002, p. 3). The practice of educational research can be
seen through different lenses, resulting in different ontological and epistemological assumptions and
methodologies. “Different people, however, view the world from different perspectives (Henning, Van
Rensburg, & Smit, 2004, p. 15). Various conceptions of social reality and of behaviour exist.
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Research approach
The study up to now has followed a grounded theory approach to inductively generate theory. Data
were collected and analysed with ATLAS.ti™ on an ongoing basis. I analysed 578 emails between
Stanford and TUT resulting in the assimilation of data that indicated patterns of data. Certain concepts
and a variety of categories and properties emerged as a result of continuous comparisons of incidents.
Categories and their properties resulted in substantive codes or conceptual meanings. Theoretical
codes (Glaser, 1992, p. 27) “are the conceptual models of relationships that are discovered to relate
the substantive codes to each theoretically”. Theoretical codes and substantive codes used together
result in “a grounded theory that fits the data” (Glaser, 1992, p. 27). Transcripts of interviews,
recordings and observation notes were also analysed and coded.
According to Bogdan and Biklen (1992, p. 201) “Evaluation research is the best-known form of applied
research”. Mouton (2001, p. 158) defines evaluation research as follows: “Implementation evaluation
research aims to answer the question of whether an intervention (programme, therapy, policy or
strategy) has been properly implemented (process evaluation studies), whether the target group has
been adequately covered and whether the intervention was implemented as designed”. Babbie (1998,
p. 334) states that “the purpose of evaluation research is to evaluate the impact of social interventions
such as new teaching methods”. The intervention in this study is the international environmental
learning programme. The research was undertaken to determine what happens when two differing
tertiary cultures meet around a common subject in a computer-mediated situation, and why does it
Project description
Developed countries worldwide strive to force intellectual colonisation on to weaker developing
countries (Drahos, 2002; Pogge 2005) resulting in the predicament of how developing countries relate
to this. The uniqueness of the ELISA study lay in the fact that it explored corresponding values
between two differing academic cultures as point of departure. Cooperation and collaboration are
multifaceted concepts that are used as tools to achieve shared meaning and shared goals. I used the
ADDIE model, (Dick, Carey, & Carey 2005) to describe the project.
Stanford presents distance learning programmes focusing on International Environmental Politics. In
2004 the Stanford Institute for International Studies (SIIS) and the Stanford Centre for Innovations in
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Learning (SCIL) commenced the Stanford University International Outreach Program (SUIOP). The
function of the SUIOP is to cooperate with international partner institutions in creating, designing and
evaluating wide-ranging and suitable e-Learning programmes for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs)
in specific world regions. An applied research component forms part of the outreach programmes.
Stanford’s newly created International Initiative is responsible for the functioning of the SUIOP.
Stanford initiated collaboration between the SUIOP, TUT and UP in accordance with the Initiative’s
mandate. Three broad themes were pursuing peace and security in an insecure world; reforming and
improving governance at all levels of society; and advancing human health and well being (Stanford
team leader, personal communication, 2005).
The purpose of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies is to research international
issues and challenges. Its goals are as follows: “To influence international public policy with its
scholarship and analysis; to transcend traditional academic boundaries and create new partnerships;
to make its research available to a wide audience; and to enrich the educational experience of all
members of the Stanford community” (Stanford University, 2006a). The SCIL, established in 2002,
“conducts scholarly research to advance the science, technology and practice of learning and
teaching. The Center brings together teachers, scholars and students from around the world to study
how to improve formal and informal learning across cultural boundaries” (Stanford University, 2006b).
ELISA, an international project of the SIIS, complements Stanford’s renewed commitment “to help
raise its international profile by identifying issues of global importance and then providing resources,
expertise and answers” (Delgado, 2004). International Environmental Politics is one of the important
areas that was identified and which they explored. The role players of the ELISA project are the
Stanford team leader, an Associate Professor of Education, a Consulting Associate Professor, a
Stanford team member, and two teaching assistants. The Stanford team leader is a Director of the
SIIS Initiative on Distance Learning (IDL) Program as well a Director of SUIOP. An Associate
Professor from the Stanford School of Education led this collaborative assignment in South Africa. She
is an educational anthropologist and the Director of an alternative middle school. Moreover, she
specialises in active learning involving learners and teachers and the influence of real-world situations
to drive learning (Stanford University School of Education, 2006d).
The virtual classroom connected experts from Stanford and educators and students from TUT to
collaborate synchronously as well as asynchronously. Access to asynchronous wireless technology
enabled the learners to communicate when necessary as South African time (GMT+2) differs from
Stanford (GMT-8) resulting in a ten hour difference. The Department of Post Graduate Studies in
Education, the Department of Journalism as well as Telematic Education at TUT were the centre of
attention in the project. Third and fourth year part-time Journalism students at TUT participated in the
study, communicating mostly asynchronously due to working conditions and deadlines. This took
place under the leadership of the following partners in South Africa as indicated in table 2.
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Table 2: ELISA Project Role Players
Research status
UP team leader
Department of Education, UP
TUT team leader
Department of Post Graduate
Studies in Education, TUT
TUT team member
Telematic Education, TUT
TUT team member
Telematic Education, TUT
UP student
Department of Journalism,
Department of Journalism,
TUT team member
Job Description
ELISA project organiser and
Research Professor at the
Faculty of Education as
South African coordinator of
the ELISA project
Director of Telematic
Instructional Designer and
Technical Assistant
Teaching assistant and PhD
Head of the Department of
Journalism, facilitator and
lecturer for the ELISA project
From table 2 it is evident that I filled the role of participant observer who is responsible for data
collection, moderation of assignments and students’ enquiries. I was involved in the pilot phase of the
project although not in a prescriptive way.
The research made use of an intervention design consisting of a course on International Environment
Politics for Journalism students at TUT. Students were able to access fifteen online lectures on
environmental issues, presented by the Stanford team as well as a South African guest lecturer who
was responsible for two lectures. Five written assignments and two mini-assignments were posted on
the course bulletin board and were graded by a teaching assistant and moderated by the TUT
academic team. Group discussions to assess the learners’ grasp of issues presented in the lectures
and reading materials, were held. This took place by means of face-to-face video conferences in order
to ensure interaction.
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Development and implementation
The existing Stanford module was adapted and contextualised for use in South African HEIs. This was
done by means of inclusion of curriculum by local authors, namely two lectures on contemporary
political aspects such as transnational protection of biodiversity, focusing on South African peace
parks. Issues included in the Stanford module may not necessarily be contextual for South Africa.
Feedback from learners contributed to emphasise important aspects which was done by focusing on
the wireless component of the study.
As a qualitative research design requires the researcher to be the primary instrument for data
collection and analysis, the researcher will “respond to the situation by maximizing opportunities for
collecting and producing meaningful information” (Merriam, 1998, p. 20). As a PhD graduate student
enrolled at UP, I filled the role of participative researcher. The research component of the study took
place at TUT, in collaboration with the Departments of Telematic Education and Journalism. The
participative researcher was responsible for the moderation of the assignments, collection of data and
to be available for student’s enquiries.
The programme was conducted with a sample of fifteen third and fourth year learners of TUT, enrolled
for a Journalism course. A sample of fifteen Journalism students was sufficient as there should be
adhered to the principle of supply and demand with reference to the training of journalists, as South
Africa does not need a large number of journalists. A computer laboratory in the Journalism
Department, equipped with fifteen state-of-the-art personal computers and video-conference facilities
was made available. Every student as well as the researcher received a PDA in order to respond to
the assignments. WebCT6 was used to communicate and give feedback to students and video
conferences were recorded. Progress was recorded and registered throughout the programme.
Interviews were tape-recorded and transcribed. I took notes and reactions were documented
immediately after the interviews.
The researchers used formative and summative evaluation techniques to assess the outcome of the
intervention. The Stanford assistant gave her feedback promptly, discussed the assignments and
presented her conclusions in a friendly way. She encouraged students constantly to report on problem
areas and to discuss any implications of the programme. The assignments were graded as soon as
they were submitted students were congratulated on excellent work or supported in a congenial
manner if necessary. The purpose of formative evaluation is to “improve an ongoing program through
continuous reporting of the evaluators’ findings” (Bogdan & Biklen, 1992, p. 211). McMillan and
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Schumacher (2001) state that formative evaluation is used in order to collect data to reflect on the
curriculum and the programme.
The teaching assistant did summative evaluation at the end of the intervention and it will be used to
report on the effectiveness of the pilot phase of the study and to make suggestions on the subsequent
studies scheduled for 2007. Fourteen students completed the project and received certificates.
Summative evaluation is traditionally the most common form of evaluation and used when the
intervention is completed (Bogdan & Biklen, 1992). This form of evaluation is more formal, feedback
does not form part of it and a final report is given at the completion of the programme.
Data consisted of emails, project documents, transcripts of interviews, recordings, observation notes,
transcripts of telephone conferences and video conferences and minutes of meetings. I took notes
during all the data-collection events as mentioned under Theory and methodology (Chapter 1, 3).
Data collection
The communication between all significant parties is facilitated by means of project documents.
Background information on the overview of the study, collaborating institutions, suggestions towards
academic design and implementation, timeframe and research focus were supplied by the Stanford
team leader in the Request to the Whitehead Foundation in the United States. This was obtained
through emails as mentioned under Theory and methodology (Chapter 1, 3). Emails were used in all
forms of communication between Stanford and TUT. Documents included students’ “researchergenerated documents” (Merriam, 1998, p. 119) such as assignments, documentation on online chat
sessions, individual meanings posted under discussions, group discussions and official grade reports.
I obtained 578 emails electronically. “On-line data collection offers an electronic extension of familiar
research techniques, widening the scope of data available to the researcher” (Merriam, 1998, p.128).
As mentioned under Method (Chapter 1, 4) I conducted three interviews with directors of the FSIIS
and one with a member of the Stanford academic team. These included interviews with a Director of
the FSIIS, Director; the Stanford team leader, Director, Initiative on Distance Learning; Co-director;
and the teaching assistant. Interviews were recorded, transcribed and signed. Notes were taken
during discussions with an Associate professor of Education (Teaching) and the teaching assistant.
The interviews and discussions were conducted at the Freeman Spogli Institute (FSI), Stanford. I
organised a focus-group interview with the TUT students on completion of the programme. The
facilitator was a technical support assistant from Telematic Education.
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I did observations of specific academic activities at Stanford as described under Method (Chapter 1, 4)
These included the attendance of various lectures in order to compare it to the South African situation.
I attended a Political Science Lecture “Major Issues in International Conflict Management” by a
Professor of Political Science, a freshman seminar “Explaining Ethnic Violence” by a Professor of
Political Science, a graduate lecture on Urban Education by a Professor of Urban Education, a lecture
on building a Wiki “On-Line learning Communities” by a Professor of Urban Communities and teaching
assistant, a tour of Wallenberg Hall, facilitated by the Academic Technology Specialist. I continued to
take notes during all these activities. Observations of academic activities at TUT include six contact
sessions with students, three video conferences, one focus-group interview and a contact session with
the Stanford team during their visit to TUT.
12.1.1 Documents
I made use of documents which included documentation on the online chat sessions, individual
meanings posted under discussions, group discussions, written assignments and official grade
reports. The reason for producing documents is to gain insight into the problem being scrutinised.
Documents that the students produced themselves provided rich descriptions of how they saw and
reflected their worlds and the environmental issues at hand.
Documents are collected as units of data which are used for analysis and interpretation (Henning, Van
Rensburg, & Smit, 2004). The purpose of documents is to assist the researcher to “uncover meaning,
develop understanding, and discover insights relevant to the research problem” (Merriam, 1998, p.
133). The term “document” refers to “a wide range of written, visual and physical material, relevant to
the study at hand“ (Merriam, 1998, p. 112). Types of documents include personal documents (Bogdan
& Biklen, 1992; Merriam, 1998) physical material and online material (Henning et al., 2004). According
to Merriam (1998, p. 112) documents are “… a ready-made source of data easily accessible to the
imaginative and resourceful investigator”.
Students were able to use their PDAs to take photographs and select pictures to “collect, organize and
sort picture files…download images, copy the files … and view the images as a slide show” (Windows,
2006b, p. 108). Photographs are indispensable to journalism students as well as to researchers “since
it allows researchers to understand and study aspects of life that cannot be researched through other
approaches; they echo Hine’s suggestion that images are more telling than words” (Bogdan & Biklen,
1992, p. 138).
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Data collection instruments
Data collection instruments consisted of the following:
I filled the role of participant observer and obtainer of documents as discussed under Method (Chapter
1, 4) and Data collection (Chapter 1, 12.1). Semi-structured and unstructured observation was used in
order to conform to the requirements of generating a hypothesis. Semi-structured observation enabled
me to explore an agenda of issues and clarify them in a less pre-determined way (Cohen et al., 2002).
Unstructured observation disclosed occurrences during the contact time prior to deciding on its
importance for the research.
According to Morrison, cited in Cohen et al (2002, p. 305) observations enable the researcher to
collect data on:
the physical environment
the organisation of learners and the features of the group such as gender, age and the
number of participants in the group
the interactions taking place within the group and
the programme setting for instance the assets and their organisation, curriculum and
pedagogic styles.
Merriam (1998) adds the following:
the nature of discussions
subtle factors such as spontaneous activities, figurative and connotative meanings of
expressions, inconspicuous physical clues and omitted actions and
the behaviour of the observer taking down comments.
I filled the role of participant observer during contact sessions with students. Adler and Adler, cited in
Merriam (1998) describe this role as a “peripheral membership role” whereby the participants will
control the level of data that is revealed. I cooperated closely enough with the participants to identify
with them as an insider “without participating in those activities constituting the core of group
membership” (Merriam, 1998, p. 101). I used an emic analysis approach to capture the definitions of
the situations as described by Silverman, cited in Cohen et al. (2002). The emic approach used the
conceptual frameworks of the participants as they reported the situations as they experienced them.
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I conducted four open-ended interviews in Stanford, as discussed under Method (Chapter 1, 4). I was
able to adjust the sequence in which questions were asked, altered the wording, clarified them or
elaborated on them. The interviews were exploratory and conversation-like and contributed to the
process of building towards a theory and generating a hypothesis.
Interviews are regarded as appropriate and significant instruments to collect data in qualitative
research (Cohen et al., 2002; Henning, et al., 2004; McMillan, & Schumacher, 2001; Merriam, 1998;
Mouton, 2001). In-depth individual interviews can be regarded as an appropriate method to develop a
hypothesis and collect data as it enables the learner to share his ideas with the researcher. It involves
“an interchange of views between two or more people on a topic of mutual interest, sets the centrality
of human interaction for knowledge production, and emphasizes the social situatedness of research
data” (Cohen et al., 2002, p.267).
As many learners hold the same view (Henning et al., 2004) the interview is regarded as not being
exclusively objective or subjective but intersubjective (Cohen et al., 2002). Patton, as cited in Eloff,
Engelbrecht, Kozleski, Oswald, Swart, & Yssel, (2002) states that the aim of interviewing is to “allow
us to enter into another person’s perspective … to find out what is in and on someone else’s mind”.
A focus-group interview focusing on a discussion topic was conducted by a facilitator and a technical
support assistant from Telematic Education, TUT. Twelve journalism students participated and
interacted with the facilitator and each other. According to Cohen et al. (2002, p. 288) “focus groups
are contrived settings, bringing together a specifically chosen sector of the population to discuss a
particular given theme or topic, where the interaction with the group leads to data and outcomes”. The
data that emerged from the interaction will be used to generate a hypothesis and gather feedback
from the project. The outcome of the focus-group interview was validated by means of triangulation.
Discourse analysis
I used ATLAS.ti™ to interpret emails between Stanford and the South African academic and technical
teams. I used coding at an early phase of the analysis to ascertain patterns and broad areas in the
Students used synchronous and asynchronous conversations in various educational environments.
Due to working conditions and deadlines the journalism students who participated in the pilot study
used mainly asynchronous conversations during the programme. They were encouraged to ask
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questions, engage in discussions and comment on any aspects of the programme. Both the Stanford
and TUT teams gave feedback promptly. Sherry, Cronjé, Rauscher and Obermeyer (2005) accentuate
asynchronous conversations where “participants may express opinions, make connections between
various discussions, relate the current topic to past experiences, synthesize responses of others,
request clarification, or post substantive questions”. These conversations form a dialogue which is an
important aspect of discourse analysis. The authors emphasise the importance of dialectic
conversations, discussions and design conversations as means of discourse analysis.
Discourse analysis is one of the most important data-collection instruments. The construction of
meaning emphasises the action standpoint of discourse analysis. Cohen et al. (2002, p. 293) draws
attention to the “three kinds of speech act” which involve the “locutionary – saying something;
illocutionary – doing something whilst saying something; and perlocutionary – achieving something by
saying something” (Cohen et al., 2002, pp.298-299).
According to Habermas, as cited in Cohen et al. (2002, p. 298) utterances are embodied in the
“intersubjective contexts in which they are set”. He emphasises the dual structure of a speech
situation, namely the “propositional content (the locutionary aspect and the performatory content the
illocutionary and perlocutionary aspect)” (Cohen et al., 2002, pp.298-299). Discourse analysis
necessitates a sensitive researcher to interpret the nuances of language.
Data analysis
All documents pertaining to the project will be analysed. These include project documents, transcripts
of interviews, recordings, observation notes, transcripts of telephone conversations and video
conferences, minutes of meetings, documentation on the online chat sessions, group discussions,
written assignments and official grade reports. 578 emails were analysed and coded with ATLAS.ti™
The course management system WebCT6 was used to facilitate the chat sessions, group discussions
and written assignments. I used ATLAS.ti™ to analyse some of the data that I obtained from the
literature study, observations and interviews and documented it. I will analyse, summarise and
document remaining data that I mined from telephone conferences, video conferences and face-toface contact.
Data analysis is an emergent process which involves all the phases of the research and was done
simultaneously with the data collection process (McMillan, & Schumacher, 2001; Merriam, 1998). Data
analysis will be completed in an inductive way resulting in groups and patterns becoming apparent.
McMillan and Schumacher (2001, p. 462) describe qualitative data analysis as a “relatively systematic
process of selecting, categorizing, comparing, synthesizing and interpreting to provide explanations of
the single phenomenon of interest”.
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Ongoing data analysis will ensure that the data will stay focused; repetition will not occur and will not
be overwhelming in volume. Merriam (1998, p. 162) states that “Data that have been analysed while
being collected are both parsimonious and illuminating”. According to Cohen et al. (2002, p. 77) the
following aspects need consideration: “What needs to be done with data when they have been
collected – how will they be processed and analyzed? How will the results of the analysis be verified,
cross-checked and validated?”
I used crystallization as a technique to reflect on the research and ensure validity and reliability.
“Crystallization seeks to open the analyst to data analysis, maximum experiences within the analytic
style” (McMillan, & Schumacher, 2001) while Eloff et al. (2002) accentuate the deep and complex
understanding of the topic provided by crystallization.
Validity and reliability
I incorporated a variety of strategies to ensure internal validity. I accomplished triangulation by using
multiple methods and data sources to substantiate emerging results. I included member checks by
taking tentative findings back to the informants whom I consulted. I integrated long-term observation of
the phenomena under investigation by repeating my observations and requested colleagues to
comment on the results, ensuring peer examination. I involved all the participants of the ELISA pilot
phase in all the stages of the research and will continue with this in writing up the findings. All results
will be documented and a hypothesis will be formulated.
The purpose of research is to produce “valid and reliable knowledge in an ethical manner” (Merriam,
1998, p. 198). Validity involves the concept of whether a researcher really observes what should be
observed. McMillan and Schumacher (2001, p. 409) point out: “Validity of qualitative designs is the
degree to which the interpretations and concepts have mutual meanings between the participants and
the researcher”. Slavin (1984) defines validity as the degree to which a data-collection instrument
measures the concept it is supposed to measure. According to Merriam (1998) it is important to be
able to trust research results in education where intervention in learners’ lives take place.
Trustworthiness of research results means that there will be an explanation for their validity and
reliability. Maxwell, as cited in Cohen et al. (2002, p. 107) distinguishes between different kinds of
validity. Interpretative validity points towards “the ability of the research to catch the meaning,
interpretation, terms, intentions that situations and events, i.e. data, have for the participants”. Validity
and reliability imply that the research is conducted in an ethical manner. According to Kemmis, as
cited in Merriam (1998, p. 200) a research study is trustworthy due to the “careful design of contexts of
production for phenomenon and the processes of measurement, hypothesis-testing, inference and
interpretation”. This action leads to crystallization.
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Chapter 2: Literature Study
In Chapter one I outlined the main aspects that had been covered regarding the literature study.
Chapter two will focus on various aspects regarding the CAI programme compiled by an American
university and explore how the literature is used to illustrate and explain the critical questions. The
research questions comprise the following: What happens when an international learning module,
compiled by an American university, is adapted for a South African HEI, and implemented in a
computer-mediated context? What dialogue emerges and why does it emerge? How do we deal with
cultural differences? How is shared meaning created and why is it created? Which aspects of the
process work well and why and how can they be improved to compensate for those that do not work
well? Which aspects do not work well and why and how can they be improved?
What happens when an international learning module, compiled by an
American university is adapted for a South African HEI, and implemented
in a computer-mediated context?
Funded projects and grants are often an outreach from developed countries to provide expertise to
developing countries (Wallsten, 2005). The ELISA project, an initiative of the Stanford University
International Outreach Program (SUIOP) and funded by the Whitehead Foundation in the US, is an
example of such an outreach initiative. This is due to the fact that Stanford seeks to explore the
possibilities of distance education in developing countries. According to Stanford apartheid in South
Africa had withheld the opportunity of tertiary education from the poor and underprivileged (Stanford
University, 2006c). The purpose of the collaboration between Stanford, UP and TUT was to introduce
an existing Stanford international learning module to a South African HEI.
Stanford first offered this course in Russia in the fall of 2000 to nine Russian HEIs. Various issues lie
at the heart of the discussions concerning the abovementioned international learning module. These
issues include a variety of interrelated aspects such as cooperative learning, cooperation at
organisational level, the international Digital Divide, the Internet, Higher Education Institutions,
learning technologies and the effect of globalisation on education. These play an important role in the
collaboration between Stanford, UP and TUT. The effect of these aspects on the ELISA project will be
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The international Digital Divide
2.1.1 The north–south phenomenon
Much of the existing literature (Benton Foundation, 2000; Bernhardt, 2000; Berry, 2000; Castells,
2001; Cronjé, 2006; Hüsing & Selhofer, 2002; Van Dijk, 2006; Van Dijk & Hacker, 2003) describes the
international Digital Divide as the phenomenon of citizens with access to technology (the wellresourced) and those without access to technology (the under-resourced). Hüsing and Selhofer (2002)
portray the Digital Divide as “the gap between citizens from different socio-economic backgrounds with
regard to their opportunities and abilities to access and use information and communication
technologies”. Chen and Wellman (2003) argue that there are multiple divides among and within
Countries in the northern hemisphere such as North America, Europe and parts of Asia as well as
Australia and New Zealand in the southern hemisphere, are regarded as highly industrialised, wealthy,
have a stable governance structure and are scientifically and technologically advanced. Contrary to
this, countries located in the southern hemisphere as well as some Asian countries, show a lack of
development when considered on an international scale. War, famine and corruption that significantly
affect the progress and prosperity of the public infrastructure are characteristic of these countries.
However, the North-South dichotomy is gradually diminishing as more developing countries are
striving to diminish the factors that contribute to the global Digital Divide (Ogunsola & Okugasa, 2006).
2.1.2 The Digital Divide in context and the Internet
An understanding of the Digital Divide is of vital importance in the debate on the difference between
the well-resourced and the under-resourced areas. Castells (2001, p. 248) refers to the Digital Divide
as “inequality of access to the Internet”. Due to the fact that the Internet is the basis of emerging
technical and social development, uneven development all over the globe is “perhaps the most
dramatic expression of the digital divide” (Castells, 2001, p. 265). Leigh and Atkinson (2001) regard
computers and Internet access as an indication of the Digital Divide. Steyart (2002) however, argues
that the Digital Divide is far more complex than only the physical access to information technologies
and highlights several contributing factors. Makhaya and Roberts (2003) refer to Internet usage within
the affluent sections of society and concludes: “The ‘digital divide’ is therefore a term that could have
been coined for South Africa”. An awareness of the Digital Divide is imperative since the dichotomy of
the well-resourced and the under-resourced is a well-established phenomenon in South Africa.
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2.1.3 Factors contributing to the Digital Divide
South Africa forms part of Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Due to a variety of factors in SSA such as
neglected infrastructures, current and recurring civil wars, political instability and turmoil, corruption,
civil conflict, human rights’ violations and revolutions, fluctuating economies, high unemployment
rates, xenophobia and poverty, even now South Africa tends to be a safe retreat for surviving citizens
of neighbouring countries. Freeman and Lindauer (1999, p. 6) argue that “If your country is riven with
strife, better to pick up a gun than pick up a book”. Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)
contributes to the health dilemma of the continent. This health pandemic requires exorbitant funding
for healing and affects human capital negatively. Environmental factors such as droughts, floods and
famine add to the distress of Southern Africa and pressurise already malnourished citizens from
neighbouring countries to seek refuge elsewhere, often in South Africa.
Available sources (Castells, 2001; Eng, Maxfield, Patrick, Deering, Ratzan, & Gustafson, 1998)
confirm that a multitude of factors contribute to the international Digital Divide. The most important
factors comprise the following: Income differentials, lack of suitable telecommunication infrastructure,
geographic barriers and sorely needed human capital. Some of these factors could influence the
ELISA programme in South Africa.
Income differentials
One of the main contributors to the chasm between the well-resourced and the under-resourced is
income differentials (Bernhardt, 2000; Berry, 2000; Castells, 2001; Leigh & Atkinson, 2001; Losh,
2003; Piazolo, 2001). According to Chinn and Fairlie (2006) income differentials account mainly for the
global Digital Divide.
South Africa is one of the leading economies in Africa. South Africa has a highly developed economic
system that is well-organised compared to first world standards. The majority of financial institutions
are privatised while foreign banks are allowed to do business in the country with relative ease. South
Africa’s economy outperformed other upcoming market economies with regard to fiscal products and
services (Lewis, 2001). It held the 13th position on the international stock market exchange. Since the
international stock market lost significant value towards the end of 2008, an exact ranking for the
Johannesburg Stock Exchange for the present could not be obtained.
Despite the abovementioned financial strengths, some authors classify the South African economy as
a middle income economy (Lewis, 2001; Makhaya & Roberts, 2003). According to Lewis (2001, p. 10)
South Africa still lacks foreign investments and only attracted a limited share “of the overall pool of
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foreign direct investment (FDI) directed to emerging markets. During 1994 – 2000, FDI in South Africa
averaged less than 1 percent of GDP”. South Africa’s FDI is compared to that of other emerging
markets during 1994 – 2000 in table 3.
Table 3: Foreign direct investment during 1994 – 2000
2.5% - 3%
2.5% - 3%
4% - 5%
4% - 5%
3% - 5%
2.5% - 3%
3% - 5%
South Africa
3% - 5%
Source: Lewis (2001)
Barriers to the development of the economic growth of Sub-Saharan Africa comprise economic
decline, increasing interest rates, poverty, soaring food and oil prices as well as power shortages.
Hitherto some of South Africa’s development objectives have not been reached. Globalisation
motivated a series of changes together with the recognition that the needs of a majority of the
population have not been met (Lewis, 2001). In order to diminish poverty and improve the economic
situation in South Africa it is essential to attract more foreign investments and capital. FDI in South
Africa declined from 33.854 R’billions in 2005 to -47.350 R’billions in 2006 (latest available statistics in
2008). This is due to several South African companies that invested abroad. This trend is illustrated in
figure 3.
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Figure 3: Foreign Direct Investment
Source: Republic of South Africa (2007)
South Africa is a typical example of a partly developed country as well as a rapid developing one.
“Even more than other ‘dual’ economies, South Africa is really two societies in one. At one extreme, is
a modern ‘first world’ society – there is electricity, running water and modern sanitation in almost every
home; two thirds of these citizens have at least a high school education, childhood mortality rates are
low and poverty is minimal. At the other extreme there is another society – where half have less than a
primary school education, over a third of children suffer from chronic malnutrition, only a quarter of the
households have electricity and running water, and less than a fifth have modern sanitation” (Lewis,
2001, p. 20). Six percent of households have no access to water infrastructure, 29.3% of households
have no access to basic sanitation and infant mortality (under one year) is 4.65% (Republic of South
Africa, 2007). Contrary to this the United States, where the ELISA project originated, is one of the best
examples of a developed country.
According to Internet World Stats (2008a) South Africa has an estimated population of 49,660,502
while the gross national income per capita of South African citizens is US$ 3630 or R26791.97. The
United States has a population of 298,988,098 with a gross national income per capita of US$
44,970.00 or R331910.52 (The World Bank Group, 2007). Hernández-Catá (2004, p. iii) states that
“More generally, the long awaited renaissance of the African economy has not taken place”.
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The participants of the ELISA programme represent different backgrounds and income differentials
could have an influence on the progress of the project. An economic survey of income differentials of
the students was not undertaken because they indicated verbally that they would be able to
Telecommunication infrastructure
Access to ICTs remains a vital element in the debate on the Digital Divide. Available sources regard
the quality of a country’s telecommunication infrastructure as an important contributing factor to this
divide (Bernhardt, 2000; Chinn & Fairlie, 2006). Although the wireless component of the ELISA
curriculum is not the focus of this study, it is essential to explore the background of fixed telephone
lines and the situation of cellular communication in South Africa. This is essential since the ELISA
participants could use mobile Internet access. The Stanford academic team expressed their interest in
the fact that South Africa’s cellular industry was more advanced than that of the US (Stanford team
leader, personal communication, 2006).
Uneven distribution of fixed telephone lines is a feature of the South African telecommunication
scenario. Prior to 1994 South Africa’s underserviced areas (rural and urban) had limited
telecommunication services. South Africa currently has two fixed-line providers namely Telkom South
Africa Ltd. and Neotel. The main fixed-line provider is Telkom South Africa Ltd., a corporatised
enterprise. It is state-owned, has the monopoly in the country while the South African Government
appoints the Telkom Board. Telkom’s services also include the provision of Internet, data transfer as
well as wireless communication (Makhaya & Roberts, 2003; Telkom SA Ltd., 2007). According to
Esselaar and Gillwald (2007) a second national operator (SNO) Neotel was licensed in 2005 and
became partly operational with restricted wholesale services during September 2006. The company
TATA is the strategic investor in Neotel which consists of the following groups: State-owned
enterprises (30%) such as Eskom and Transnet/Transtel; Nexus Connexion (19%) and SEPCO (51%).
The latter consists of the following groups: TATA group/VSNL (51%); Two Consortium (24.5%) and
Communitel (24.5%). Neotel will focus on the provision of added value to the South African market
rather than competing with Telkom on a price basis (Esselaar & Gillwald, 2007). The
Telecommunications Amendment Bill of 2001 provides that a third national operator (TNO) will be
introduced (Ali, 2003). Competition in the South African telecommunications industry was supposed to
benefit the end-users; instead the prices of local calls increased while charges for international calls
decreased (Ali, 2003).
Costs remain one of the main obstacles regarding telephone and Internet connections in Africa.
McPhie (2004) found that these costs were excessively high across the African continent. Basic
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access costs proved to be unaffordable for the majority of Africans. As already pointed out, the South
African economy is classified as middle-income. Makhaya and Roberts (2003, p. 2) found that
telecommunication tariffs, however, do not compare favourably with that of countries with a similar
development level. They mention that in 2000, charges in South Africa were higher than in countries
such as Brazil, Korea and Malaysia. This comparison was made “using purchasing power parity
exchange rates to reflect the equivalent buying power and costs across different countries”. South
Africa’s rate of leased lines “is still more than double the OECD average and dramatically higher than
similar low to middle income countries such as Turkey and Poland” (Esselaar & Gillwald, 2007, p. 29).
The installation charges for automatic and manual exchanges for billed residential services were
R383.37 or US$ 15.16 (Telkom SA Ltd., 2007).
According to the South African Government (2007) the “monthly rental on a 512 kilobit/second fixedline broadband Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line [ADSL]” was R362 or US$49.04 per month. The
installation fee of a fast ADSL line was R490.00 or US$66.38 and the monthly rental was R152.00 or
US$20.59 (Telkom SA Ltd., 2007). Statistics regarding some of Telkom’s different services are
illustrated in table 4 and table 5. Esselaar and Gillwald (2007) state that the Independent
Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) reported in 2005 that South African mobile tariffs
were significantly higher than in some neighbouring countries.
Table 4: Telkom ADSL connectivity
Excl VAT
Incl VAT
Excl VAT
Incl VAT
Fast DSL
Faster DSL
Faster DSL
Fastest DSL
Fastest DSL
Source: Telkom SA Ltd (2007)
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Table 5: Telkom ADSL modems
ADSL modems
Purchase price Excl
Purchase price
Incl VAT
Telkom WiFi modem
Wireless card
Source: Telkom SA Ltd (2007)
The digital era also influenced the telecommunication industry, resulting in it becoming mobile. The
mobile communications industry tapped the enormous potential of the developing world like few other
transformations did. Castells (2001, p. 261) states that “Indeed, in 1999, over half the people on the
planet had never made or received a telephone call”. In addition to this statement Joshi and Avasthi
(2007) report that according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, the mobile phone market
grows with roughly five million new subscribers monthly. Telephone line density was regarded as vital
“for any of the most common uses of computers, accessing the Internet” (Chinn & Fairlie, 2006). This
is no longer true. Hodge (2005) states that in low-income households, access substitution is taking
place. This is especially true for developing countries where inhabitants have greater access to mobile
technology than fixed lines. Kahlil (2003, p. 21) confirms this argument by saying that “We’re
approaching a point where for every fixed line in Africa, we have two cellular lines, at least. If you
compare this with North America, it’s the opposite”. Esselaar and Gillwald (2007) predict that Africa’s
mobile penetration will escalate from approximately 9% currently to 20% by 2010 while fixed lines are
estimated at 3% around today. According to Makhaya and Roberts (2003) the fixed line teledensity in
South Africa was 11.4 per 100 inhabitants, while that of mobile phones was estimated at 24.9 per 100
inhabitants in 2000. Currently [2009] the main mobile subscriber base in South Africa is 42.2 million as
indicated in table 6. Particulars of Cell C and Virgin Mobile could not be obtained.
Four mobile phone service providers are currently operational in South Africa. These are Vodacom,
MTN, Cell C and Virgin Mobile. Vodacom and MTN are the leading operators, as illustrated in table 6.
Apart from the South African market MTN expanded its market into South and East Africa, West and
Central Africa as well as “the Middle East and North Africa region” (MTN Group, 2008). Vodacom is
currently the largest cell phone operator in SA. It is jointly owned by Vodafone (50%) and Telkom
(50%) and concentrates on the South African market. Vodacom introduced forefront technology such
as DSL, WiFi (802.11 standards) and HSDPA “which allows for download speeds of around 1.8 mbit/s
– comparable to what Telkom is offering on an Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber line (ADSL)” (Esselaar
& Gillwald, 2007, p. 22). 3 C Telecommunications (Pty) Limited owns Cell C (Pty) Limited which
provides international roaming facilities to Namibia, Mozambique, Spain, the Ivory Coast, Mauritius
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and Swaziland. Virgin Mobile was introduced to the SA mobile market in 2006 and is a joint enterprise
between Cell C and Virgin Management (Republic of South Africa, 2008a).
Table 6: Statistics for South Africa’s mobile phones: 30 June 2008 to 31 March 2009
Prepaid Subscriber
Market share
15,5 mil
2,5 mil
13,0 mil
26,7 mil
3,9 mil
23,5 mil
Source: MTN Press Office (2009); Vodacom Annual Report (2009)
Since the introduction of mobile services such as Vodacom and MTN in 1994 in South Africa (Hodge,
2005) the scope of telecommunications changed rapidly. Bradwood (2003, p. 6) reports that as early
as 2003, South Africa was then “among the most cellular-dominated markets outside Europe. The
country’s cellular market is currently valued at more than R23 billion (US$3.03 billion) and is expected
to grow to around R45 billion (US$5.94 billion) by 2004”.
Low-income households in developing countries tend to substitute mobile services for fixed lines, due
to lower monthly fees and affordability (Hodge, 2005). Additional advantages include “a significantly
lower waiting time for a phone; the additional utility from mobility; no financial penalties for
reconnection; a second-hand market for phones, which reduces connection charges; per second
billing for the first minute; and the additional utility from free added service and handset feature”
(Hodge, 2004, p. 212). According to Ferraro (2008) Susan Schorr, the head of the International
Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) regulatory and Market Environment Division, noted that 61 percent
of the world’s 2.7 billion mobile phone users are in developing countries, compared to 10 percent of
the world’s 1 billion Internet users. “For the developing world, the Internet experience is going to be a
wireless experience” (Ferraro, 2008).
The i-mate PDAs that the participants of the ELISA programme received introduced them to high-tech
wireless technology and presented the opportunity to use a multitude of different functions of the
mobiles. As journalists they could put the devices to good use while they explored different
environmental sites and reported informative incidents. Internet access via wireless devices freed
them from constraints such as limited opportunities to access the Internet on the TUT campus during
specified periods, the fact that they had to be on campus, and power shortages. Instead, they had the
freedom to use the wireless devices anywhere within the coverage distance of MTN, the Internet
Provider (IP).
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Much of the existing literature emphasises the positive – negative dichotomy that exists around the
Internet. Castells (2001, p. 247) states that the Internet contributes to “existing sources of inequality
and social exclusion in a complex interaction that appears to increase the gap between the promise of
the Information Age and its bleak reality for many people around the world”. It can, however, be
argued that the Internet should be regarded as a positive factor in the ELISA programme due to
numerous factors which will be discussed below.
In order to interpret and analyse the role of the Internet in this study it is essential to refer to the
definition of an Internet user. According to Internet World Stats (2008b) the International
Telecommunication Union (ITU) defines an Internet user as any person “aged 2 years old and above,
who went online in the past 30 days”. The United States Department of Commerce (Internet World
Stats, 2008b) states that an Internet user must be aged 3 years or older and must use the Internet on
a current basis. The criteria for a Chinese citizen to be regarded as an Internet user, is from the age of
six and utilization one hour a week. The Internet World Stats regard an Internet user as “anyone
currently in capacity to use the Internet” (2008b) which boils down to available access to the Internet
as well as the fundamental knowledge to utilise web technology. Criteria for a South African citizen to
be regarded as an Internet user could not be obtained.
Internet usage has become a mainstream activity and part of everyday life. Figure 4 illustrates that
African Internet usage amount to 3.4% of the World Internet Statistics compared with the 18% of North
America (Internet World Stats, 2008c). While Africa has 14.2% of the global population, African
Internet penetration by percentage of the population is only 4.7%. Correlating statistics for North
America indicates that the population amounts to 5.1% and Internet penetration to 71.1% as shown in
table 7 (Internet World Stats, 2008c). South African Internet users amount to 5,100,000 of the world
Internet users (Internet World Stats, 2008a). Due to the abovementioned inequalities it is imperative
that Internet usage among South African citizens should increase. Learners should get the
opportunities to be exposed to technology and Internet usage from a young age. This would then
enable HEI learners to benefit from the digital opportunities as was observed by the participants of the
ELISA programme who were using the Internet very effectively.
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Figure 4: World Internet Users – December 2007
Source: Department of Education: Republic of South Africa (2008b)
Table 7: World Internet Users and Population Statistics – December 2007
World Internet Users and Population Statistics
World regions
(2007 est.)
% of world
usage, latest
of world
Middle East
North America
Latin America/
World total
Source: Internet World Stats (2008a)
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Geographic barriers
Geographic obstacles may prevent students from becoming technically educated and reduce
opportunities for excellence. The Department for Education and Skills in the United Kingdom (2005)
emphasises transport inequalities and recommends that ICTs should be made available to learners
who are unable to attend specific educational institutions. Most of the South African ELISA participants
resided in the Gauteng province where the town of Tshwane is situated. One student resided in
Nelspruit and reported that travelling between Tshwane and Nelspruit proved to be time-consuming
and costly.
Human capital
Human capital comprises inter alia a country’s inhabitants’ level of education, literacy, language
proficiency and skills. Piazolo (2001, p. 33) points out that most of the developing world requires more
computer-related educated and trained people to participate in the “new economy”. Ogunsola and
Okusaga (2006) confirm that professionals and highly-skilled technicians are high in demand in
developed countries all over the world due to career opportunities and contributing personal factors.
Spenneman (2004) argues that the IT industry is susceptible to this developmental aspect. Germany’s
Green Card initiative to attract IT specialists from outside Europe (Apap, 2002; Kubichek, 2004;
Meijering & Van der Hoven, 2003; Werner, 2001) illustrates this tendency. An estimated 75 000 job
vacancies were reported in the IT industry in Germany around 2000. The Green Card initiative
permitted 20 000 skilled IT professionals from outside Europe to live and work in Germany for five
The brain drain involves “the diffusion of skilled human capital, particularly scientific and technical
human capital (STHC), from home to host country” (Davenport, 2004). South Africa is currently also in
this dreadful position due to a “brain drain” during the past two decades. This consisted of a tendency
of highly skilled technicians and professionals to leave South Africa for developed countries mainly
because of personal reasons or to further their careers. The South African Network of Skills Abroad
initiated the development of a databank of South Africans in order to address the brain drain (Akoojee
& McGrath, 2003). The purpose was the repatriation of skills to contribute to the rebuilding of the
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Uneven global development of human potential is a phenomenon that has been in existence for
centuries. “The information gap” (Bernhardt, 2000; Berry, 2000) is an older version of the Digital Divide
and reflects the division among human beings with regard to access to the means of communication.
Strover (2003, p. 275) states that the Digital Divide is “an ill-advised version of the ‘Mercedes divide’ in
the United States: Some people can afford expensive luxury cars, others cannot, but that is the
American way”.
Chinn and Fairlie (2006, p. 38) refer to “human capital” which is measured by an individual’s illiteracy
rate or years of schooling. Robinson, Dimaggio and Hartiggai (2003) regard education as the main
predictor of access to the Internet. Citizens with a higher than average education level exhibited higher
Internet penetration rates than those with lower education levels (Leigh & Atkinson, 2001; United
States Department of Commerce, 2000). Better educated people put technology to better use than
their less educated counterparts (Losh, 2003). This finding is based on various American national
surveys that investigated the access and use of computers between 1983 and 2000, as well as the
access and use of the Internet between 1995 and 2000. Education and gender were used as
variables. According to Chinn and Fairlie (2006) “A one year increase in average schooling is
associated with a one percentage point increase on PC penetration”. An indication of the education
disparities of citizens of different continents is illustrated in table 8.
Table 8: Human capital disparities
Average years of schooling
Sub-Saharan Africa
Europe and central Asia
12.1 years
3.7 years
8.3 years
Source: Chinn and Fairlie (2006)
Superior education is a good indication of higher ICT-related opportunities that lead to higher wages
(Oyelaran-Oyeyinka & Lal, 2005). Knowledge is an important building block of education that
empowers the learner. Ogunsola and Okugasa (2006, p. 140) observe that knowledge can be
associated with “improved quality of life, which is the ultimate goal of development activities”.
According to Halimi (2005, p. 12) “...knowledge has become an economic issue...as well as one of the
keys to a better quality of life”. Access to knowledge and information as opposed to deprivation of
knowledge and information thus result in a significant difference in socio-economic levels. The ELISA
participants were not prone to a literacy barrier as they were all HEI learners that enjoyed 12 years
schooling and at least 2 years of tertiary education.
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Some of the available sources (Castells, 2001; Edejer, 2000) consider the diversity of languages to be
a contributing factor to the Digital Divide. This was the situation during the beginning phase of
dissemination of ITCs in the late 1990s. Castells (2001, p. 252) states that “87 percent of global
websites are only in English”. He adds that language per se could not be regarded as a barrier since
the Internet is regarded as global. Depending on the purpose of the Internet access such as business
transactions, education, recreation, career opportunities, information searches, shopping or handling
of everyday affairs, the lack of language proficiency could very well prove to be an obstacle.
Edejer (2000) emphasises that information that has been read and translated from the original posting
on the Internet is not always accessible to the end-user. Sometimes it is essential that the accessed
content be converted and contextualised into relevant local context. Microsoft embarked on a project
to expand some of its applications to indigenous African languages. The purpose of this innovation
was to make technology available in local languages (Iboma, 2008). Emerging language markets
seem to offer possibilities to foster web sites in local languages in South Africa other than English.
Marson (2004) reports that Translate.org.za explored the possibility of launching open-source software
in South Africa’s 11 official languages. Linux desktop, OpenOffice and Mozilla were considered for
translation into South African languages. Microsoft Corporation launched its Local Language Program
to enhance the availability of software. The African languages Swahili and Afrikaans offered
possibilities to access Microsoft Windows 2000 as well as Microsoft Windows XP. The South African
National Language Service (SANLS) produced MS Word add-ons which will enable text origination
(Gee, 2005).
The participants of the ELISA programme represented Afrikaans, English, Indian, isiZulu, and Sesotho
mother-tongue speakers. Multilingualism and command of language played an important role in the
programme. Although the ELISA programme was conducted in English, one of the official languages
of TUT, language per se did not prove to be a major obstacle in the programme.
Language is an important tool in the communication process and is an attribute that is present in all
cultures. Subdivisions of culture such as acculturation and enculturation entail different approaches.
Acculturation involve changes in the original cultural patterns of groups of people. Enculturation entails
identification with ethnic culture, shared values and participation in cultural activities. Enculturation
plays an important role in the widening of the Digital Divide.
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2.1.4 The paradox of the Digital Divide
Although not the focus of the study, it is noteworthy that uneven development does not only exist
between countries from the northern and the southern hemispheres, but also between different
communities in both developed and developing countries. This is also true for the United States
(Department for Education and Skills, 2005; Stanford team leader, 2006). Rogers (2000) draws
attention to the division between the Indian elite and the mass population in the Indian subcontinent.
The gap between wealthy and underprivileged communities, metropolitan areas, and inhabitants of
rural areas is typical of the division within a country. Losh (2003) emphasises the significance of
inequalities among American social groups. Chen and Wellman (2003) refer to the social patterns
within the divide and emphasise that these patterns differ within and between developing and
developed countries. This phenomenon is also true for South Africa but this did not have noticeable
effects for the ELISA programme.
The paradox of the Digital Divide, however, lies in the fact that people who could gain the most from
info-inclusion, are unlikely to access ICTs. The contradiction exists that the well-resourced will gain
disproportionally from the “increased information offer” (Hüsing & Selhofer, 2002) at the expense of
the under-resourced. The danger exists that due to the ubiquity of ITCs the divide between wealthy
and poor nations will increase (Wallsten, 2005). Much of the existing literature (Chen & Wellman,
2003; Kozma, McGhee, Quelimalz, & Zalles, 2004; Spenneman, 2004) argues that the Digital Divide
will continue to widen unless corrective action is taken to close it. South Africa is no exception to the
rule regarding this aspect of the Digital Divide and I argue that this is one of the main reasons why an
outreach programme such as ELISA is essential for South Africa.
2.1.5 Commonalities and differences
The focus of the discussion on the Digital Divide paradigm is on the commonalities between the wellresourced and the under-resourced, as well as on the differences that exist between different role
players. Various experts refer to the gap between the well-resourced and the under-resourced.
Bernhardt (2000, p. 4) states that there was a gap long before the arrival of the Internet, and
concludes: “efforts must also focus on filling the chasm that lies between both sides”. The conceptual
model illustrated in Chapter 1, Figure 2 indicates the Digital Divide between global well-resourced
learners and the local under-resourced learners. Cronjé accentuates the fact that “The more global
something becomes, the harder it may be for locals to see its relevance. The more local things
become, the less globally competitive or useful they might be” (Cronjé, 2009). He emphasises that
increasing either of the two sides would result in the increase of the Digital Divide. To reach
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commonality, one has to distinguish fundamental aspects on both sides and start working from there.
Prof Cronjé’s work in Sudan is mentioned under Theory and methodology in this study (Chapter 1, 3).
How to bridge the Digital divide
The question has been raised on whether it is possible to eliminate the Digital Divide. Hüsing and
Selhofer (2002) state that European and international policies “have identified the Digital Divide as a
threat to sustainable information society and are consequently seeking for a remedy against it”.
According to Ali (2003, p. 114) all the citizens of a country have a right to access basic communication
services. This is so because communication “…is an enabler of social interaction across time and
geographic space, and a creator of economic development and prosperity for even the most dispersed
Advanced Micro Devices (2008) compiled data using reliable sources such as Internet World Stats,
Nielsen Ratings and the ITU to project global Internet penetration over time. According to this
projection at least 50% of the global population won’t have Internet access until 2030. The question
thus remains valid on how best to bridge the Digital Divide.
In October 2007 a summit of leaders launched Connect Africa in Kigali, Rwanda. This initiative is an
international multi-stakeholder partnership. The organisers of this summit include partners such as the
ITU, the African Union (AU), the World Bank Group and the United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and
Development, in partnership with the African Telecommunication Union, the UN Economic
Commission for Africa and the Global Solidarity Fund. The purpose of Connect Africa is to “mobilize
the human, financial and technical resources required to bridge major gaps in information and
communication technology (ICT) infrastructure across the region, with the aim of supporting affordable
connectivity and applications and services to stimulate economic growth, employment and
development throughout Africa” (International Telecommunication Union, 2007). Klaus Schwab (2004)
executive chairman of the World Economic Forum (WEF) emphasises the organisation’s intention to
remain fully involved in the affairs of the African continent. They aim to see to the provision of sound
policies, improved governance, more intelligent support by international role players and increased
commitment of the private sector to help solve the African dilemmas. Locally the South African
Government’s aim is “a better life for all” (Republic of South Africa, 2008a).
The effect of the Digital Divide on developed countries as well as developing countries is multifaceted.
Much of the existing literature (Kozma et al., 2004) emphasises that this divide may increase unless
radical steps are taken to decrease it. Prospects to diminish this divide between and within countries
and populations mainly comprise economic development and growth, human capital investment,
technology diffusion and telecommunication infrastructure expansion.
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2.2.1 Economic development and growth
Economic development and growth are one of the major aspects that need to be addressed in the
endeavour to decrease the Digital Divide. This remains a critical challenge in developing countries
such as South Africa. The South African Government committed itself to strategic involvement to
develop economic growth (Republic of South Africa, 2008a).
Economic growth requires capital and labour. The assumption that the creation of capital automatically
generates growth in Africa, could not be verified (Lewis, 2001). One of the options to develop
economic growth and development is to attract foreign investments. Direct measures to ensure this
entail the attempt to improve the value and number of substantial investments. Indirect measures
entail economic competitiveness and the option to make investment attractive by improving labour
markets, have improved trade competitiveness and the endorsement of Small, Medium and Macrosize Enterprises (SMMEs) (Lewis, 2001). Financial support by banks or financial institutions is
indispensable for entrepreneurs to obtain loans to start new businesses (Ogunsola & Okugasa, 2006).
The aim of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) is to improve socio-economic
growth and reduce high poverty levels across Africa (Akinboade & Lalthapersad-Pillay, 2005). They
argue that in order to dismiss the idea of Africa as a ‘’high-risk’’ continent (2005, p. 252) it will be
essential to employ initiatives on political and financial governance as well as on peace and safety
measures. Schemes such as credit guarantee, strong regulation and legislation of market operations,
economic systems and property rights will ensure foreign investment.
FDI is a dominant tool to bridge the Digital Divide. The importance of FDI must not be underestimated.
According to Lewis (2001) South Africa only attracted a minimum amount of FDI intended for
developing markets in the past. FDI in South Africa was “less than 1 percent of [the gross domestic
product] GDP” (Lewis, 2001, p. 39) between 1994 and 2000. FDI can result in advantages such as the
inflow of foreign capital, increased investment levels and transfer of skills and technology. Spin-offs
comprise export possibilities, the improvement of the trade balance, enhancing the economy’s import
capacity and stimulating job creation. Employment is an essential element to alleviate poverty and to
stimulate growth and development.
The development of infrastructure such as the supply and utilisation of electricity and other fuel
resources as well as fixed telephone lines can promote growth and should be expanded. Perkins,
Fedderke and Luiz (2005) confirm that during 1976 – 2002 the investment in infrastructure for
electricity and transport in South Africa declined. Bearing this growth goal in mind the South African
Government initiated a five year plan from 2005 to 2009. The purpose is to re-invest in funding
projects for Eskom and Transnet, the parastatal transport provider of South Africa.
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Until 2008 this economic injection has not proven to have the desired effect. South Africa exports
electricity to neighbouring countries such as Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana, Swaziland,
and Lesotho whilst power shortages were introduced locally in order to reduce electricity consumption.
These precautions are pressing, especially with the development projects of the 2010 Soccer World
Cup in mind. South Africa will host the 2010 Soccer World Cup and the country is in the midst of
several development projects that require infrastructure, especially electricity. The supply and use of
infrastructure will hopefully result in growth, employment and revenue.
Continued economic development is important in a country’s economic growth. Perkins et al. observe
that “the need for investment in electronic infrastructure never goes away” (2005, p. 223). This
premise is especially true for South Africa. Existing infrastructure should also be maintained in order to
provide services and support to the end-user. In return enterprises such as Telkom SA Ltd. and South
Africa’s national energy supplier Eskom can create growth, development and revenue. Telkom SA Ltd.
and Eskom are responsible for employment creation which can result in poverty alleviation and
Funding projects and grants are examples of initiatives to provide financial support, technology and
expertise to disadvantaged communities. This concept is ever present in developed as well as in
developing countries. During the period 1995 to 2000 the US Department of Commerce expressed
their interest in bridging programmes that aimed at increased computer ownership and Internet
penetration (Leigh & Atkinson, 2001). Plugged In is an example of community economic development
in East Palo Alto, California. This establishment is regarded as “perhaps the most innovate and cutting
edge Community Technology Center (CTC) in the country. If one can learn anything about
interventions under extreme conditions of wealth vs. poverty, it could be from this well-structured
experiment within Silicon Valley” (Gordo, 2003, p. 167).
In South Africa the Government is committed to community development by means of financial
support allocated for education. Bursaries and funding of Further Education and Training (FET)
institutions were a priority during 2007. R100 million was allocated for these resulting in more than
12500 students benefitting from it. R2 billion was set aside to upgrade FET institutions (Republic of
South Africa, 2008a). Despite these initiatives much more funding is required to enhance economic
growth and development. The ELISA programme is an intervention that was designed to address
dilemmas such as inadequate funding programmes in South Africa, accomplish empowerment and
bridge the Digital Divide. More programmes such as these are crucial in the challenge for growth and
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2.2.2 Human capital investment
Many scholars of the Digital Divide regard the enhancement of human capital as one of the main
enablers to bridge the Digital Divide (Spenneman, 2004). Education is an important building block in
initiatives to develop human capital, growth and expertise. Since the early 1990s first world economies
regarded resources such as knowledge and information on a national level as well as within
organisations as most valuable to sustain continued development (Ogunsola & Okugasa, 2006). They
argue that knowledge is associated with an advanced standard of living, and which is an important
goal in the process of growth and development. ICTs increasingly inform the way people learn, live,
work, communicate, socialize, relax, retrieve information and do business. Although there is proof that
the South African Government and other interested parties are motivated to enhance human capital
and focus on empowerment programs in South Africa, it is not yet adequate. The enrichment of
human capital should be a priority of all concerned parties.
Education is one of the prerequisites for developing countries to become part of the information age
(Chen & Wellman, 2003; Leigh & Atkinson, 2001). According to Robinson, Dimaggio and Hargittai
(2003) education is the main forecaster of Internet access. Kubichek (2004) regards both Internet
literacy and access as prerequisites to obtain and to retain employment. Hüsing and Selhofer (2004,
p. 22) regard access and skills as “a facilitator of one’s employability”.
Internet literacy
Digital literacy is regarded as a “life skill” similar to literacy and numeracy (Republic of South Africa,
2004b). This initiative should be directed at all education institutions, especially HEIs that could benefit
from it. Examples of similar campaigns are special-entry campaigns that were launched in Germany to
promote Internet literacy. After initial prejudice by Chancellor Helmut Kohl of Germany about the
Internet in future economic growth and development (Kubichek, 2004) Chancellor Schroeder’s redgreen government decided to promote Internet literacy. The “Government and IT industry agreed that
8.8 million housewives and men, 20.7 [million] senior citizens and 4 million unemployed people should
not be left to commercial training and Internet cafés, but be offered an appropriate low-barrier entry in
addition by the ‘Internet for All’ campaign” (Kubichek, 2004, p. 11).
Special entry courses for Internet illiterate people should be developed (Kubichek, 2004). Curricula
that focus on basic Internet literacy such as how to get online, send and receive emails, use search
engines and how to surf the web, should be developed. Although the ELISA programme did not focus
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on entry-level literacy courses, it can be effective in the process to improve literacy amongst Internet
Programmes that focus on special content should be developed to arouse the interest of specific
groups. Chen and Wellman (2003) report that a lack of programmes on specific content can be an
obstacle in Internet usage. Special courses aimed at particular groups may be an effective measure to
get people interested in Internet usage. Kubichek (2004) states that Germany launched special
programmes aimed at women called “Women into the Net” as well as special courses for seniors.
Programmes that contain special content on a variety of subjects may be an effective measure to
interest different groups in South Africa. Due to the multicultural and multifaceted South African
population a variety of programmes could be relevant in this regard. ICT applications that provide
locally relevant content (Chetty, Tucker, & Blake, 2003, p. 1) could be an effective assistance in
bridging the Digital Divide. The authors state that services relevant to inhabitants’ “culture, beliefs and
language” should be made available to them. The ELISA programme which focuses on environmental
security, is an example of a programme that contains specific content.
Apart from programs that contain special content, programs in all eleven South African languages
could also decrease the Digital Divide. Language can be used as a motivating factor to promote
literacy. The predominance of the English language is an important phenomenon in the process of
exploring material at tertiary level and is a significant factor at tertiary level. Non-English mothertongue participants in the ELISA programme did not encounter language as a barrier since the course
was conducted in English, one of the official languages of TUT. The availability of appropriate
environmental content in all the other ten South African languages may be relevant. The ELISA
participants represented multicultural backgrounds such as Afrikaans, English, Indian, isiZulu and
Sesotho. The majority of the participants were multilingual and worked as journalists who tried to
further their careers. However, suitable material in their mother tongues would be indispensable in
order to create an awareness of environmental security amongst their readers and also amongst
secondary school learners. This is of particular importance in South Africa since limited environmental
resources are getting scarcer day by day.
Programmes to train ICT professionals in South Africa should be expanded. Such programmes are
powerful measures to decrease the Digital Divide (Ogunsola & Okugasa, 2006). The quality and
quantity of properly trained instructors are not negotiable. In South Africa, several facilities exist at the
23 HEIs and other education institutions to study ICTs. Since the information age requires ICT literacy
it is imperative to train enough professionals. Although this is not applicable to the ELISA programme,
such an initiative, however, could contribute towards the increase in the human capacity pool. ICT
professionals not residing in their native countries should be encouraged to take up positions at home
(Ogunsola & Okugasa, 2006) and contribute to the development of human capital there. Well-trained
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experienced professionals are in high demand all over the world. Special measures to attract
adequately trained IT engineers were launched in Germany. This involved a “Green Card for IT
specialists from outside Europe” (Kubichek, 2004, p. 2). Stable political and economic factors also play
a role in the decision of professionals to return home. The ELISA programme was not prone to this
aspect of endeavours to bridge the Digital Divide. In future, however, this could influence the quality
and capacity of human capital in South Africa. “The Come Home Project” was launched to encourage
South African professionals working abroad to come home.
Table 9: World Internet Users – December 2007
Source: Internet World Stats (2008)
Internet access
Internet access is a prerequisite to obtain internet literacy. Kozma et al. (2004, p. 361) found that ICT
can contribute to human development in a remarkable way – “but only for those that have access”.
According to De Haan (2004, p. 67) IT access is a multifaceted concept that comprises “motivation,
possession, digital skills and use”. Ferlander and Timms regard “access, skills and motivation (2006,
p. 137) as requirements for digital inclusion. Several aspects lie at the heart of the Internet access
debate. Figure 5 portrays the main aspects that influence Internet access as interpreted by Kubichek
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Figure 5: The Internet Access Rainbow
Source: Kubichek (2004)
Physical access to ICTs has a major role in bridging the Digital Divide. The possession or availability
of hardware is a precondition for Internet access. Ferlander and Timms declare that “to be on the right
side of the (dual) digital divide it is vital to have physical access to technologies” (Ferlander & Timms,
2006, p. 137). The cost of hardware and software therefore is one of the main barriers in the
endeavours to bridge the Digital Divide. The ELISA participants had to use their own hardware but
could use the well-equipped facilities of TUT in order to go online. Moreover, the state-of-the-art PDAs
that they received enabled them to explore wireless technologies. Appropriate software was installed
on all the PDAs. The participants, however, only had the PDAs at their disposal for the duration the
course. Subsequent funding programmes could enable the participants to possess their own PDAs.
Internet access implicates telecommunication infrastructure. Expansion of telecommunication
infrastructure can be an important tool to bridge the Digital Divide. Insufficient telecommunication
infrastructure could posit a problem for the initiatives to minimise the Digital Divide. The quality and
quantity of telecommunication networks in a country are fundamental in the debate on Internet access.
In developing countries such as South Africa the improvement and expansion of telecommunication
networks can play a determining role. Existing facilities should be maintained in order to provide
uninterrupted services. Telecommunication infrastructure was not a problem for the ELISA participants
as they all resided in areas where there was adequate coverage.
Access to electricity will assist learners to counteract the Digital Divide. Alternative forms of power
supply such as solar power and generated power produced by generators can be used to boot
personal computers, laptops, modems and use browsers. Wind farms in South Africa are a new
source of electricity that could be explored and used. Wireless technology such as the PDAs works on
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a battery system but need to be recharged every so often. This was not a problem during the ELISA
programme. It could, however, be problematic when journalists have to visit rural areas in their work.
Lower fixed-line fees and lower mobile fees can reduce the Digital Divide. I argue that lower
connection fees and lower monthly tariffs for fixed lines will contribute to surmounting the Digital
Divide. As previously mentioned (see,) the rate of leased lines in South Africa is double the
average rate of similar services in OECD countries (Esselaar & Gillwald, 2007). Table 10 gives an
example of Telkom’s monthly rental fees.
Table 10: Telkom’s monthly fee
3 minute
Monthly ADSL
telephone call
charge per
charge to a
fixed line
59,4c (first 94
0.63c (thereafter
per second)
Business with
2 extentions
59.4c (first 94
0.63c (thereafter
per second)
Source: Telkom SA Ltd (2007)
Lower Internet access costs can be instrumental in the process to bridge the Digital Divide. Much of
the existing literature regards high Internet access costs as problematic. Spenneman (2004) states
that high Internet access costs exacerbate the Digital Divide. Leigh and Atkinson (2001) argue that
cost is one of the reasons why some United States citizens don’t have Internet access. The ELISA
participants had to settle their own Internet access accounts when retrieving information and
completing assignments off-campus. This was usually the case as they had to submit their
assignments on Friday evenings. They received vouchers for the PDAs to the value of R150 per
month for a period of three months. They could use these to get Internet access.
The establishment of Internet public access points where people who do not have computers nor
Internet home access to go online, can be significant. Facilities such as community technology
centres, schools, libraries, post offices, churches, laundromats, cyber cafes and free-standing centres
could be used. In the United Kingdom, by 2005 there were more than 7000 UK online and learndirect
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centres, including 3000 public libraries for such purposes (Department for Education and Skills, 2005).
I argue that examples of “Internet for All” and the Action Program for Innovation and Jobs which
supported public-access facilities in Germany (Kubichek, 2004) are applicable to the South African
situation. This initiative will help to overcome the barrier of hardware costs and connection fees. The
ELISA participants could benefit from Internet public-access facilities since these access points could
be close to work or available at suitable times. Not all the students who participated had broadband
access at home.
Technology centres where Internet access is available will lessen the need to invest in expensive
hardware and connection fees. Centres that offer open access to its ITC facilities during off-peak
periods may promote Internet access. Examples of such periods are during evenings, weekends and
holidays. The Department for Education and Skills (2005) in the United Kingdom suggested this
initiative to bridge the Digital Divide, but submit that it is debatable whether such an initiative will be
successful in a developing country such as South Africa. However, it could be very valuable to parttime students at HEIs. The ELISA participants could certainly have benefitted from such a facility.
2.2.3 Technology diffusion
The dimensions of digital inclusion comprise several features. Much of the existing literature
emphasises access and skills as dimensions of digital inclusion (Castells, 2001; Ferlander & Timms,
2006; Hüsing & Selhofer, 2004). The development of skills is therefore a prerequisite in the endeavour
to bridge the Digital Divide. The initiative to provide modern technology to the inhabitants of an area
can assist in this.
Information and knowledge play an important role in the 21st Century and cannot be underestimated.
Ferlander and Timms (2006) report on the success of a Local Net and Internet Café in Sweden that
attempted to bring modern technology to a suburb in Stockholm. The citizens were very grateful for
this initiative as it supplied knowledge and information online. Customers of the IT-café also used the
facility to improve their skills. Diffusion of technology may thus increase knowledge diffusion through
improving communication. Initiatives such as these will promote development in South Africa,
especially in rural areas. ELISA participants who do not have computers may then be able to access
information, improve their skills and promote environmental security even in rural and underdeveloped
Technology diffusion should be made available to everybody in order to bridge the Digital Divide.
Advantaged groups have better technology diffusion than disadvantaged groups. The latter comprise
poor people, racial minority groups, women and/or less educated groups. This initiative coincides with
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the idea of “Internet for All” (Kubichek, 2004, p. 10). ELISA participants did not experience technology
diffusion as a barrier whilst completing the programme. However, should they in future work in rural
areas where technology diffusion is inadequate digital inclusion may be problematic. The challenge
remains to enable all South African citizens to access ICTs.
Income is an important determinant in the use of technology. Initiatives to increase income may assist
to bridge the Digital Divide. A positive relationship exists between technology use and income across
countries and within countries. Higher income may lead to higher technology use. It will thus be in
South Africa’s interest to promote economic growth and development. This may result in increased
technology use. Castells (2001) observes that income plays an important role on the diffusion of
broadband. Users manipulate the Internet more than any other technology. He points out that this is
because of the flexibility of this technology and the speed of transmission of their feedback.
2.2.4 Telecommunication infrastructure
Communication technology (CT) refers to telecommunications equipment through which information
can be sought, sent and accessed – for example phones, faxes, modems and computers (Department
of Education, 2004b). Transmission technologies refer to the use of cable modems, asymmetrical
digital subscriber lines (ADSL), integrated services digital networks (ISDN) and wireless-based
Internet access (WAP). Initiatives to develop, improve and expand telecommunication infrastructure
will contribute in the endeavour to bridge the Digital Divide.
Wallsten (2005) states that income is one of the most important determinants of telecommunication
development. Lower costs for telecommunication services may make these commodities more
affordable and thus contribute to overcome the Divide. The communication costs include lower
connectivity fees, lower monthly subscription fees, lower transaction fees and the reduction of wireless
device fees. Lower fees would not be relevant to the ELISA participants since they completed the
programme and would not benefit from possible future lower costs. It could, however, be
advantageous to future students who need Internet access at an affordable fee.
Development of the telecommunication infrastructure may bridge the Divide. Development involves
the expansion of telecommunication services to rural areas that have to do without the help of fixed
line teledensity. Broadband access will help students to connect at a high speed. The improvement of
infrastructure will favour growth, investment and poverty alleviation (Hernández-Catá, 2004). ELISA
participants could use the TUT broadband facility while on campus; when not, they have to use their
own transmission technologies to retrieve information and complete their assignments.
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Regulatory changes and competition can help in bridging the Divide. The Independent
Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) regulates the telecommunications industry in South
Africa (Ali, 2003). The South African Government has been hesitant in the past to deregulate the
telecommunication industry, resulting in unfair competition in the ICT industry. The
Telecommunications Act of 1996 introduced significant changes by initiating phased competition into
this industry. This ended the government’s monopoly of the South African telecommunications
industry. Wallsten (2001, p. 2) states that “competition is the most effective agent of change, and
privatizing a monopoly without concurrent regulatory reforms may not necessarily improve service”.
Competition in this regard will not only benefit the ELISA participants but all South African citizens.
Higher Education Institutions
Higher education changed radically during the latter part of the 20th century and will continue to do so
in the 21st century. This trend is evident all over the world (Bruns, Cobcroft, Smith, & Towers, 2007).
Developments such as globalisation, increasing student mobility, lifelong learning, participation of
open universities, the introduction of the Internet, virtual classrooms and e-learning transformed higher
education significantly (Daniel, 2005). Challenges such as financial constraints, return on investment
(ROI), decreasing resources, escalating student numbers and increased competition between
educational service suppliers compel HEIs to adapt and innovate.
Educational needs are increasing (Anderson & Middleton, 2002). HEIs are pressurised to provide in
the increasing requirements and needs of students and in order to do this, HEIs have to adapt the
traditional educational style to a more flexible learning style. In some of the developed countries the
student profile changes from mainly undergraduate students to accommodate part-time and adult
students as well. In Canada, the UK and New Zealand (Daniel, 2005) student profiles show that a
significant number of older students are entering higher education. South Africa is no exception. The
ELISA programme is an example of an intervention where 13 of the 14 participants were working
students and could further their careers whilst studying. This phenomenon illustrates the efficiency of
the ELISA programme as a means of support.
Several interrelating aspects contributed to a new form of higher education. Knowledge production can
be regarded as flexible and transdisciplinary, involving a wide range of partners from different sectors,
public and private (Daniel, 2005). TUT is an example of a HEI that is increasingly becoming a virtual
meeting place where interactive learning takes place. Technological skills are imperative to claim
inclusion in the digital society. The online delivery of the content of the ELISA curriculum via CD-ROM
enabled the TUT participants to be part of a unique e-learning opportunity that could advance career
opportunities. Internet access allowed the students to obtain vital information and to expand their
perspectives on environmental security. Video conferences introduced the participants to the
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comprehensive input of international environmental experts, much to the benefit of their awareness of
environmentalism. An understanding and awareness of environmentalism is of the utmost importance
in South Africa and, as a matter of fact, for the whole of Africa.
Higher education is often related to improved career opportunities aimed at increased financial growth.
HEIs experience pressure of escalating student enrolment and their numbers are increasing worldwide
(Abbott & Doucouliagos, 2003; Greenhalgh, 2001; Rickinson & Rutherford, 1995; Taylor, Bates, &
Harding, 2004). According to McIntosh (2005, p. 2) higher education grew significantly since 1998 as
indicated in the UNESCO 2004 report. It says that “the historic threshold of 100 million students
worldwide has been crossed and the prospect of reaching the figure of 125 million students will be
attained before 2020”. Such conspicuous expansion is especially true in Africa, the Arab countries,
Latin America, the Caribbean and in Eastern and Central Europe.
The demand for higher education is a well-known phenomenon in South Africa, resulting in twenty
three HEIs. Cronjé (2006) contends that “Too often e-learning strategies were based entirely on costdriven models with ROI being cited as the chief motivator for its implementation”. In 2006, the total
number of learners and students in all areas of the education system in South Africa was 13 910 696.
5.3 % of these students were enrolled at HEIs as illustrated in figure 6. TUT, where the ELISA
programme was hosted, represented the largest residential HEI in South Africa with 51 446
enrolments (Republic of South Africa, 2008b). These statistics illustrate the importance of higher
education in South Africa as a developing country. The ELISA programme thus contributed to the
accomplishments of TUT students in supporting them to achieve their qualifications.
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Figure 6: Percentage distribution of learners in the education system in 2006
Source: Republic of South Africa (2008b)
The financial implications of higher education cannot be underestimated. While economists currently
[2009] predict financial constraints both nationally and internationally, e-learning as part of an
integrated learning approach can be seen as a more economical option than traditional learning. The
original outreach programmes that Stanford presented to former Soviet Union and Eastern European
students by bringing them to Stanford, turned out to be very costly. Instead, a model to present
outreach programmes to students in their home countries, proved to be a more viable option. The idea
was to reach more students at a lower per student cost. This was also the inspiration for the ELISA
Larsen, Martin and Morris (2002) point out that one of the advantages of e-learning is that more
students can study foreign courses while remaining at home. Bates, A.W., & De Los Santos, J.G.E.
(1997) refer to the advantages of global access to education while Altbach (2004) reports that about 8
million students will study outside their home countries by 2025.
The role of technology
New technologies are continually transforming the modus operandi of everyday lives, especially
sectors such as communication, teaching and learning. Since the digital revolution is changing all
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facets of our society it results in a “change in the way children gather, accept and retain information”
(Tapscott, 1998, p. 2). The revolution in the ITC world is a phenomenon that cannot be compared to
anything that happened before (Leiner, Cerf, Clark, Kahn, Kleinrock, & Lynch, 1999). Losh (2003, p.
74) has found that “of all the innovations of the twentieth century – space travel, heart transplants,
effective birth control, genetic engineering, television – at the turn of the millennium, a National Public
Radio study reported that Americans rated computers as the most important”.
Much of the current existing literature on communication refers to the information revolution. Castells
(2002) states that the “revolution” in ITCs spreads out all over the globe. Bernhardt (2000) points out
that ICTs are revolutionising communication, education and services. Edejer (2000) refers to the
revolutionary power of technology while Daniel (2005) points to the ample revolutionised areas of life
and that educationists need to expand that revolution for the benefit of learners. Clarke (2002, p. 1)
summarises by saying that “history is littered with failed attempts to ‘revolutionize’ learning through
innovative technology”. However, he adds that these attempts resulted in a valuable lesson: “In order
for technology to improve learning, it must ‘fit’ into students’ lives...not the other way around”.
There exist different rationales for the use of educational technology in higher education. Rumble
(2001, p. 5) says that educational technology is regarded as a method to improve “the efficiency of
education through productivity increases”. Cronjé (1997) argues that, firstly, there exists a need “for
learners to be technologically literate” and, secondly, it is hoped that “technology could expedite the
learning process”. Cronjé quotes the 1996 summary of Reigeluth to distinguish the Industrial Age from
the Information Age. The role of technology in the Industrial Age was to produce products. This role
changed to facilitate the processes of the Information Age. Thirteen of the fourteen participants of the
ELISA programme were technologically well literate since they had to fill a definite need in the
journalism profession. Although not the focus of this study, McCombs (2000) emphasises that several
studies show that appropriately applied educational technology can improve learning and
accomplishment when compared with conventional teaching methods. The ELISA programme
indicated that the educational technology employed in the module definitely enhanced student
The role of technology in the ELISA programme can be seen as a tool to facilitate and achieve a
variety of goals. Technology as an instructional agent refers to the “materials based on CD-ROMs,
online sources, video- or audio-streaming, interactive video, textbooks, and so forth” (Paulson, 2002,
p. 127). The ELISA programme used these technologies as well as mobile technology as part of an
integrated learning process. The ELISA programme explored the possibility of a two-way learning
process between Stanford and UP.
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One of the most important functions of technology as a tool is to facilitate change. Bates (2005, p. 2)
has determined that “technology indeed provides educators and governments with the capacity to
transform radically our whole education system and nowhere is this truer than in the area of flexible
and distance learning”. Technology-based teaching can lead to the elimination of the boundaries of
time, geography and jurisdiction (Daniel, 2005). Technology also makes it possible to rethink the
boundaries of the institution resulting in the expansion of technology-based teaching that is not limited
to location. The ELISA programme is an example of such an expansion of information, advice and
support from Stanford for TUT. The purpose of the expansion was to initiate an awareness of
environmentalism among the participants and ultimately create a paradigm shift and change in
behaviour among the participants.
Technology can be used as a tool to accomplish a variety of different tasks. According to Hannafin
(1999) learners can use the same technological tool to achieve different functions. These functions
include seeking information, integration of new and existing information and communication. Such
tools as “keyword searches, to topical indexes, to the semantic search engines available on the WorldWide Web” (Hannafin, 1999) can assist the learner to find the appropriate information and for
individual purposes. They help to collect significant information valuable to simplify subsequent access
or to gather subsets of resources suitable for personal learning requirements. Integration tools
synchronise new and existing knowledge. Diverse concepts from multiple perspectives are organised
and integrated with personal knowledge. Communication tools enable interaction between educators
and professionals. Synchronous communication tools involve simultaneous interaction between
participants. Asynchronous communication tools entail exchanges among participants who are not
necessarily simultaneously available. The ELISA programme employed all these tools to facilitate the
functions mentioned.
Change and innovation facilitated by technology exploit new resources. Innovation creates new
methods that aid flexibility. According to Clarke (2002, p. 1) e-learning extends the classroom beyond
its physical limitation “it is anytime, anywhere access to school via the web”. The ELISA programme
employed an integrated learning approach that combined traditional and e-learning strategies. While
there are many definitions of e-learning the following definition is the most applicable for the ELISA
programme: “almost any learning environment in which electronic media, such as computers, are used
as a component of an instructional delivery system. These can range from the use of Email to
supplement print-based materials distributed at a distance to courses that are delivered entirely by
means of technology such as computers or the World Wide Web” (Keller & Suzuki, 2004, p. 230).
The debate on the outcomes of e-learning continues. Cronjé (1997) asks “Who killed e-learning?”
while Greenagel (2002) accentuates marginal competencies as one of the reasons why the promise of
e-learning has not yet been realised. Galusha (1997) explains several barriers to distance education
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but concludes that distance education is extremely suitable for adult learners. Romizowski (2004)
mentions that the e-learning baby is often thrown out with the bath-water, unless certain conditions are
being met. The e-learning component that formed part of the ELISA programme was highly innovative
and successful.
Educational technology requires support and training in order to ensure that the end-user benefits
from access to technology. Bates (2005, p. 2) emphasises the importance of the implementation of
technology as it “is neither good nor bad in itself but it is the way that it is used that matters”.
Excellence in teaching is a prerequisite to solve the challenges of higher education (Cronjé, 1997).
Castells (2001) quotes the observation of Bolt and Crawford in that the effective use of educational
technology depends on the efficiency of the teachers. The expertise of an excellent technological team
at TUT was available for all the participants for the duration of the course.
What dialogue emerges and why does it emerge?
Both globally and locally, educational needs are increasing and Africa is no exception. In South Africa
where the majority of the population have been denied tertiary education for many decades, this is
even more so. The South African government had identified education as a tool to bring about
economic growth and development (Republic of South Africa, 2008a).
Worldwide HEIs are under pressure to provide in the escalating needs and requirements of students
as discussed in Chapter 2. The challenges that HEIs are experiencing entail financial constraints,
decreasing resources, return on investment (ROI), growing student numbers and increased
competition between service providers.
Higher education studies concerning developing countries have become very popular. Edejer (2000),
and Costello and Zumla (2000) report on existing North-South research projects concerning medical
outreach programmes in Africa. Bates (1997) identified the following important elements of
partnerships “market research, strong institutional support, and adaptability to local needs”. Nwafor, as
cited in (Missen, McNulty, Ibrahim, & Liverpool, 2003) discuss the funding for university libraries in the
developing world and accentuates the dire effects of the economic state of affairs for education and
academic libraries in the Third World. Nwafor, the librarian of the University of Jos, Nigeria,
summarises the predicament as follows: “To say that Third World university libraries are currently
(1990) perched on a precipice would not be an exaggeration. In fact, one could go a step further to
say that the necessary factors required for the declaration of a library state of emergency are in place”.
The ELISA project is an example of a mutual partnership with that aim in mind.
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One of the principle aspects in outreach programmes is the creation of partnerships. In the ELISA
programme the underlying principle was the creation of a partnership that would enable a two-way
learning process. Stanford envisaged to provide international expertise to the TUT students and
expose them to an exceptional learning opportunity in International Environmental Security. In return,
it was hoped that they could learn from their South African colleagues about mobile technologies
because this was more ubiquitous in South Africa than in the United States. The pilot phase of the
ELISA programme resulted in a successful outreach initiative. The findings will be discussed in
chapter 4.
Costello and Zumla (2000) point out that a bona fide cooperative research partnership rests on four
basic principles: mutual trust and shared decision making; national ownership; emphasis on getting
research findings into policy and practice; and development of national research capacity.
Edejer (2000) adds the following to this list: decide on objectives together, divide the profits equitably;
and build on achievements. Several of these principles were relevant for the ELISA project.
The funding of outreach projects remains one of the fundamental principles that guide the research.
Inequitable funding often poses a dilemma. Clear mechanisms are essential to ensure that funds are
managed appropriately. According to Edejer (2000) the management of funding directed towards
health research and development is often messed up.
Unequal power relations are often typical of partnerships between developing and developed
countries. Outreach negotiations between these participants are often characterised by a dialogue of
power. The University of Iowa-Nigeria collaboration is an example of a partnership with such a
dialogue. Political and economic turmoil in Nigeria took its toll on the academic environment where
information technology has been grossly neglected. According to Missen et al. (2003) the once wellrespected Nigerian university system “has been reduced to a shadow of its former self…In the digital
realm, many universities represent a blank slate”. The University of Iowa initiated a six year outreach
project with the University of Jos and a thirty year outreach project with the University of Ibadan both
in Nigeria. Since information technology and the Internet offer escalating academic resources Internet
access has been identified as an instrument to create upliftment and progress. In South Africa it is
particularly “the universities in need, such as TUT and the University of the Western Cape that benefit
from such collaborations. However, UP is not regarded as a university of need and does not
collaborate with Iowa” (UP team leader, personal communication, September 24, 2008). Unequal
power relations between research collaborators create certain risks. (Volmink & Dare, 2005, p. 705)
state that “Guidelines on international partnerships in research should, however, help to minimise the
danger of scientific colonialism masquerading as research collaboration”. Costello and Zumla (2000)
argue that the research model remains semicolonial in many instances and they distinguish between a
semicolonial model and a partnership model, as illustrated in table 11.
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Table 11: Semicolonial and partnership models of research in developing countries
Semicolonial model
Partnership model
Setting of research agenda
Dominated by outsiders
Negotiated with insiders
Links with national institutions
Line management by foreigner
Line management by national or
and training programmes
Staff costs
Predominantly foreign salaries,
More balanced investment and
overinflated local salaries
more sustainable in the long
Heavily orientated to
International dissemination
international journals and
balanced by outputs in national
or regional journals, and media
to reach a wider audience
Emphasis on sustainability and
More likely
Negative, attracts best and
Positive, builds up local
brightest away from national
academic infrastructure
generalisability of research
Influence with local
Effect on national institutions
research institutions
Source: Costello & Zumla (2000)
HEIs have various incentives to participate in outreach projects. This is according to the motives of the
institution. Volmink and Dare (2005) see the publication of journal papers and articles as a significant
incentive. Stanford had financial gain in mind, thus the decision to support the outreach project in
South Africa. UP aspired to empower the participants and use the outreach initiative as a learning
opportunity. TUT’s incentive was to expose the students to international environmental perspectives.
How is shared meaning created and why is it created?
Cooperation and collaboration are multifaceted concepts and can be interpreted in several ways.
Coppola (1996) accentuates the importance of participation in several groups as part of daily life. He
quotes Bruffee who propagates John Dewey’s phrase: “living an associated life”. Shared meaning
implies common purposes, common adversaries and common incentives. The process of shared
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meaning starts with shared ideas, resulting in various objectives between different people working
together in order to reach mutual goals. Shared meaning in the ELISA programme resulted in
cooperation and collaborative learning, at least during the start of the pilot phase.
Cooperative learning can be used as a tool to achieve shared-learning goals and shared meaning.
Johnson, Johnson and Smith (1998) state that the implementation of cooperative learning at tertiary
level originated in the creation of “social interdependence, cognitive-developmental, and behavioural
learning theories”. The authors quote Koffka who says that groups are “dynamic wholes in which the
interdependence among members could vary” (Johnson et al., 1998). Common goals create
interdependence among the members of a group. The core of a group is situated in its
interdependence. Johnson and Johnson (1994) distinguish between two kinds of social
interdependence. Positive interdependence (cooperation) exists when individuals promote interaction
and support each other’s attempts to learn. Negative interdependence (competition) exists when
individuals discourage and hamper each other’s attempts to achieve their goal. No interdependence
suggests that individuals work independently without any interaction or interchange.
Motivation is a necessity for successful learning, especially online learning (Jalongo, 2007; Kikuchi,
2006; Matsumoto & Obana, 2001). Malone and Lepper (1987) identified interpersonal motivations that
were extant in the presence of other people and depended on other people. These interpersonal
motivations are cooperation, competition and recognition: cooperation and competition are in
numerous ways parallel. Malone and Lepper themselves quote an existing body of literature regarding
the following: Cooperation and competition satisfy psychological needs, certain conditions apply under
which one or the other takes place, develop in certain ways as children grow up and influence learning
tasks in school. Cooperation is often assumed to be good while competition is assumed to be bad.
However, both cooperation and competition can be used in ways that have beneficial or detrimental
outcomes. The challenge is how best to exploit their motivational power.
Learning tasks can be segmented into dependent units and independent units. According to Malone
and Lepper (1987) a spelling task is an example of dependent units as well as independent units.
Students can take turns in spelling the following letter in a word (dependent unit) or they can take
turns in spelling a complete word at a time (independent unit). With independent tasks, cooperative
behaviour can be encouraged by the combination of the scores of the different students (number of
words spelled correctly). A technique to encourage cooperative learning in the independent case will
be “exogenous” while in the dependent case it will be “endogenous” (Malone & Lepper, 1987, p. 243).
Exogenous cooperation will often present a fairly weak form of motivation.
In the ELISA programme for example, the facilitator divided the students into four groups. Every group
had to divide a specific article into equal sections that the individual students had to read (dependent
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units) and then piece the whole article together, interpret it and give their comments. During a followup assignment every student had to complete an individual section (independent units) of a larger
assignment. Individually, the students had to use their PDAs to search for different URLs on the
Internet in order to mine material that they could use in further assignments and articles. One student
was commissioned to compile a master list of all the relevant URLs and distribute this among the
Endogenous and exogenous competition may also serve as motivational factors. With independent
tasks such as the spelling of a complete word it is easy to encourage competition. The students
compare their scores to determine who performed the best. Malone and Lepper (1987, p. 244) quote
existing literature that indicate that these “exogenous competitive pressures may stimulate interest
during the initial performance, but it appears to have detrimental effects on subsequent intrinsic
motivation”. Endogenous competition is encouraged when students with conflicting goals work
together on dependent tasks and unintentionally help each other.
Recognition is a form of interpersonal motivation that plays a significant role in the design of
instructional environments. Recognition involves that we enjoy having our efforts and
accomplishments recognised and appreciated by others (Malone & Lepper, 1987). The visibility of
results is important and can be done in three ways. Firstly, the process of execution of the activity may
be noticeable, for example, artists who paint in public; secondly the outcome of the activity may be
noticeable resulting in paintings at an art exhibition; thirdly additional results of the activity may be
noticeable, for example published names of artists in a competition or contained in an art catalogue.
Similarly, in the ELISA programme it was possible to observe the students searching for the relevant
URLs on their PDAs. This activity resulted in the master URL list that could be visibly followed.
Additional results would arise in articles that they wrote, using the information obtained from the
master URL list. Shared meaning was created through the students’ participation in the activities. The
facilitator gave mild recognition to each of these activities, thus motivating the students to continue
searching for information for further use in their careers.
According to Malone and Lepper (1987, p. 244) endogenous and exogenous recognition are important
interpersonal motivations. They assume that endogenous recognition is “natural to the activity” and will
have a stronger motivation for the “development of a global mass culture”. Anti-globalisation
advocates argue that learning process. Examples of endogenous recognition involve class
newspapers, art exhibitions, musical recitals and speeches (Malone & Lepper, 1987). An example of
exogenous recognition is the publishing of a roll of honour.
Apart from the fundamental mutual goal on both sides, there were individual goals that played a role in
the implementation of the programme. Stanford was committed because of the prospect of
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cooperation with TUT and UP in creating, designing and evaluating a wide-ranging and suitable elearning programme in a specific area of the globe. They hoped to implement international policy to
alter national behaviour in South Africa with scholarships and to create new partnerships. They aimed
to transcend conventional academic boundaries by making their research available to two South
African HEIs. They attempted to advance Stanford’s international profile through the provision of
resources, expertise and answers. Stanford’s commitment resulted in the grant of $485,000 for the
entire three year period. Stanford was also interested in the transfer of South African knowledge,
expertise, and know-how to the United States. They envisaged an exceptional two-way learning
process to learn about the use of mobile technologies in South African HEIs. The South African
counterparts wanted to participate in the programme because of the opportunities that could result
from it. TUT and UP were interested because it was a unique learning opportunity for journalism
students and it could help them to complete their studies. The enriching perspectives that they would
obtain could be of use in their future careers. The academic and research teams realised that this twoway learning process provided the opportunity for research at post-graduate level. This could result in
learners’ articles contributing to shared meaning and the existing body of knowledge on the subject.
How do we deal with cultural differences?
Inglehart and Carballo (1997, p. 37) point out that different coherent cultural regions have citizens with
specific values and worldviews and “that make them think differently and behave differently from
citizens of other cultures”. Schein adds to this point of view by saying that at the root of any complex
issue “we are likely to find communication failures and cultural misunderstandings” (Schein, 2003, p.
Since culture is a way to describe human behaviour (Barth, 1998), it follows that a learning culture is a
way to describe the behaviour of people that are attached to a specific HEI. During the progress of the
course it became clear that a definite homogenous Stanford culture versus a hard-to-define TUT-andUP-culture exists.
According to Bates (1999) a number of social and cultural issues arise as soon as educational
programs cross borders. Meijering and Van Der Hoven (2003) accentuate the phenomenon of cultural
baggage that 22 IT professionals encountered on different sides of German society. Callahan (2006)
explores cultural differences and similarities in the design of university web sites for such places as
Malaysia, Austria, the United States of America, Ecuador, Japan, Sweden, Greece and Denmark.
These web sites are compared to shed light on the question of whether the design of web sites in
different cultures is distinct or do they follow similar trends? The role of these differences and their
practical consequences are also explored.
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Different cultural values between nations and organisations exist and are maintained world-wide.
Much of the existing literature emphasises cultural diversity and influence (Barth, 1998; Costello &
Zumla, 2000). In order to deal with cultural differences it is necessary to scrutinise cultural identity. Hall
(1990) discusses cultural identity, cultural representation and states that there are two ways to define
cultural identity: similarities and differences. Firstly, similarity involves a shared culture, a oneness that
recognises the numerous points of similarity between people. It underlies the similarities that people
with a shared ancestry and history have in common. Secondly, there are crucial points of difference
which represent “what we really are...what we have become” (1990, p. 225). People are positioned by,
and position themselves in different ways within the sequence of events of the past. Differences are
inscribed in cultural identities. Hall concludes by saying that the otherness results in the
marginalisation of the underdeveloped people, the ‘other’ – “always ‘South’ to someone else’s El
Norte” (1990, p. 228).
Cultural differences are also prevalent in higher education and present several challenges in higher
education spheres. One of these challenges is how to operate in a global environment while remaining
attentive to the needs, capacities, traditions and values of particular countries and cultures (Halimi,
2005). Given the debate on cultural differences as discussed in chapter 1, the position of this study is
that of support to the Hofstedian argument, highlighting the situational reality of South Africa and the
importance of an African perspective. The emphasis of this study is about the differences and the
commonalities between the two cultures that are involved. The question thus remains valid: How do
we deal with cultural differences?
There exists a divide amongst people from different cultures and traditions. However, the emerging
interconnectedness of the world results in the phenomenon that the world is getting small,
compressed and therefore more connected. In order to deal with cultural differences it is essential to
have an awareness of other cultures and try to understand them. Furthermore, it is vital to engage with
people from countries other than the United States in order to gain insight into their backgrounds
(Stanford team leader, personal communication, 2006). The Stanford team leader emphasised that
due to the regional isolation of the United States more emphasis could historically have been placed
on looking beyond the borders of the United States. International related studies was characterised by
a very Amero-centric perspective. The development of interdisciplinary country-studies programmes at
Stanford facilitated the process to “get people to think outside of the American centre”.
An awareness and understanding of cultural differences goes beyond the mere translation of study
material. Tomasulo (1999, p. 1) states that “The advent of the world wide web and instant language
translations have simultaneously shrunk our world and made the understanding of other cultures a
necessity”. According to the Stanford team leader (2006) translation may result in the loss of the
meaning of the word, as well as the loss of the connotation and cultural setting. Language that is very
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specific as to content is characteristic of a specific discipline and mostly difficult to translate. With
regard to the programmes that Stanford launched in Russia they found that Russian students wanted
to learn about America and the American perspective. However, they wanted to learn that in English
because that is how they understood American culture. They first wanted to learn that, then translate
the material and then compare it with their own perspectives. The advisory board at Stanford also
identified the problem that some post-graduate students did not have an understanding of other
cultures. This resulted for example in the inclusion of a two year mandatory foreign language course
as part of an engineering degree.
Globalisation represents two sides of a coin: the other versus the own national identity and traditions.
Globalisation can be seen as contradictory to nationalism. Globalisation (as discussed in the previous
section) refers to “The increasing extent, velocity, and impact of world-wide interconnectedness” (Held
& Hirst, 2005). Nationalism refers to “the promotion of the culture, economy and national interests of
one nation as opposed to subordinate areas or other nations or supranational groups or organisations”
(Stetar, 2000). Both the concepts globalisation and nationalism are central in the endeavours to deal
with cultural differences.
The Internet plays a dichotomous role in the process of globalisation. On the one hand the Internet
can be regarded as a tool to promote the homogenization of cultures (Callahan, 2006). This is done
because the Internet is “an ideal medium for reaching beyond domestic markets in order to
disseminate products to hitherto foreign markets” (Würtz, 2006, p. 275). A global commercial culture
develops where international brand names and products such as Coca Cola, Kentucky Fried Chicken
and KFC and Nike are globally known and accepted. In the higher education domain an increase of
new contributors, cross-border supply and increased electronic delivery of education takes place
(McIntosh, 2005). Larsen et al. (2002) report that the Internet facilitates traded educational services.
The Internet on the other hand, can serve as a tool of globalisation that generates challenges to
national identity and local culture. The Internet can also develop in a powerful tool of global domination
(Hongladarom, 2002). Global competition emerges “in the political, economic and cultural domains
which are challenging old hierarchies” (Lemmer, 2001, p. 22). Global cultural communications can
lead to the erosion of ethnic identity and result in a loss of local culture. National traditions and cultural
values are threatened by increasing trade liberalisation in educational facilities (Larsen et al., 2002).
The dilemma of globalisation, however, occurs “when a local culture faces the need to merge with the
globalizing tide but at the same time feels that it needs to protect its identity and tradition”
(Hongladarom, 2002, p. 244). According to Lemmer (2001, p. 19) the aspiration for nationalism is
powerful and not likely to be eroded by the “development of a global mass culture”. Anti-globalisation
advocates argue that certain countries strive to maintain their own unique cultures where nationalism
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is the determining factor. Globalisation is characterised by new flows of information that strengthen
differences and “the awareness of the ‘other’. Thus, local and national culture remains robust”
(Lemmer, 2001, p. 19). Piazolo (2001) reports on the success of villages in the developing world that
offered their products to clients in the developed world due to lower entry barriers, less obstacles
combined with advanced contact facilities supplied by the Internet.
Local cultures can be preserved without citizens having to seek other destinations or emigrate to
foreign countries. People can survive and thrive in their own environment while they are able to
innovate, secures cultural diversity. This phenomenon is also viable in the educational sphere. The
Stanford team leader (Personal communication, April 24, 2006) referred to the virtual online business
courses that the Universities of Phoenix and Duke offer. The students that enrol at these institutions
are able to stay in their native region while obtaining their qualifications.
Much of the current existing literature emphasises examples of intellectual colonisation. Hongladarom
(2002, p. 241) reports that the Internet is an influential agent of globalisation both in cultural and
ideological terms. Local cultures find it difficult to “resist integrating itself with the world through the
Internet, but at the same time they feel a real need to protect and promote their identities”. Maynard
(2003, p. 57) points out that glocalization challenges ideas of cultural imperialism because the word
suggests “a negotiation process that appears to start from the inside out, i.e., a process that begins
with a high regard for the local. The term ‘glocalization’ connotes a successive development, as well
as a challenge, to the top-down hegemony implicit in the term ‘globalization’”. Shakuntala (2008)
states that Indian audiences accept, resist and show pleasurable responses to variations in Bollywood
films. These reactions pertain to clothing, music, dance, settings and locales. Indian audiences accept
Westernization to a certain extent but demand “Indianness” whereby Indian values are upheld and
reinforced. Nyamnjoh (2004, p. 37) examines the paradoxes of globalisation “as a process of inclusion
and exclusion, empowerment and enslavement, citizenship and subjection, hope and disappointment”.
Africans manage to manoeuvre and manipulate but refuse to surrender and internalise to
marginalisation by developed countries. These developed countries are often weakened by financial
motives of global capital.
The globalisation of the local results in glocalisation, a term that refers to the “fusion of global and local
forces and interests” (Ramutsindela, 2004, p. 61). The author adds that glocalisation involves the
extent to which global forces influence several processes at the local level, or vice versa. These
include economic, social and political processes. An example of such glocalisation is the link between
the University of Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania and various HEIs worldwide. The Tropical Biology
Association in Tanzania collaborates with Natural Science Departments in Ireland, Italy, the
Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States
(Tropical Biology Association, 2005).
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Examples of glocalisation are found in many countries where globalisation initially influenced the local
societies. Yet local cultures found a way to retain their identities. In Bollywood films producers ensure
that although certain elements of a film are typically Western, Indian cultural values are still reinforced
(Shakuntala, 2008). The storyline and theme of a film may originate in Hollywood, the clothing may be
denims and shorts, but the drum that plays the background music represents Indian civilization.
Bollywood films always emphasise familial emotions as opposed to some Hollywood films that lack
familial emotions. In Malaysia and Singapore examples of glocalisation are evident in some
architectural designs (Khondker, 2004). The public housing programme in Singapore uses the
international style of straightforward and practical designs. A concept of public space was thus
introduced to the occupants of these housing blocks. Public spaces called void-decks were built and
served as venues where communal gatherings such as weddings or funerals took place. Western and
local Singaporean motifs were thus combined to form a new design. Another excellent example of
glocalisation is the accommodation of Gillette’s Sensor Excel shaver for ladies in Japan (Maynard,
2003). In 1997 Gillette as a global brand used an introductory tone to emphasise the newness of a
razor for ladies in the United States. In the Japanese advertisement the emphasis was on the end
benefits such as prettiness and the pleasant feeling that the product created. Where the United States
advertisement read as hard news, the Japanese advertisement concentrated on intimate rapport with
ladies. The ELISA students suggested their own glocalisation endeavours. They accessed the
learning material, developed a perspective on local environmental issues at hand and created their
own South African perspectives in editorial pieces. Some of the students even raised the possibility of
submitting these editorial pieces to the international Society of Environmental Journalists.
Critical analysis
Direction of funds
Funding is one of the key elements of partnerships. A critical analysis of the literature revealed that
there is a critical misunderstanding regarding the way that financial resources intended for research
and policy making should be directed. Volmink and Dare (2005) emphasise this premise by stating
that “Furthermore, there must be clear mechanisms to ensure that some funds for research are
directed to strengthening the capacity to conduct research, manage research (by establishing
processes to handle grant funding )”.
Much of the significant body of literature on partnerships reveals that providing countries often promise
large amounts of money to receiving countries (Isaksson, 2002; Oyelaran-Oyeyinka & Lal, 2005;
Samoff & Carrol, 2002). However, much of the literature also reveals that the earmarked financial aid
[sometimes] never really reaches the receiving country. Ngambi and Katembo (2006, p. 44) state that
the allotted money “merely is recirculated back to the origin point donor country via their national
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corporations”. Samoff and Caroll (2000) determined that the Tertiary Education Linkages Project
(TELP) began in 1995 as an initiative to empower black South Africans by way of tertiary education.
The aim was to make tertiary education opportunities and resources available in order to improve
academic, administrative and research capacities in previous historically disadvantaged HEIs. The
USAID commitment to TELP was estimated at US$ 50 million, of which about 50% had been
disbursed by 2000. Seven previously disadvantaged South African HEIs were linked to partner
institutions in the United States. It was found that “almost $6 million of federal funding was spent on
the linkages project, with matching grants for about $3.6 million from the United States partner
institutions”. An in-depth evaluation of the expenditure patterns for five of these HEI partnerships
revealed that about 60% of budgets were allocated to personnel expenses such as salaries, fees,
fringe benefits and travelling costs. Mid-term financial statements indicated that one of the host
partners in the United States “wanted to keep 98% of the partnership for its own use”.
Another example that emphasises the way in which funding is directed is the review of North-South
cooperation that was done by Chandiwana and Ornbjerg (2003). The authors extracted pertinent
aspects of 21 years (1981-2001) of scientific collaboration among Zimbabwe’s Blair Research
Laboratory, the Biomedical Research and Training institute and the Danish Bilharzias Laboratory.
They found that financial resource flow needed for research in Africa amount to $100 million per
annum “but less than a fraction of this amount is currently [2003] available” (Chandiwana & Ornbjerg,
2003, p. 295).
It is thus obvious that adequate financial resources are made available to North-South partnerships.
Such resources should [also] be used to develop and sustain research as well as technical expertise
in the receiving country. However, the literature fails to explain what action can be taken to ensure that
the aid is allocated correctly and that these resources remain available to the receiving partners.
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Interpersonal differences
One of the basic elements of partnerships is power relations between the providing country and the
receiving country. Much of the existing literature emphasises the fact that the equality of power
relations depends on the type of partnership. Oyelaran-Oyeyinka (2005) identified the following 3
broad types of partnerships: First, the principal partner controls resources and makes the decisions
regarding information needs, performance assessments, actions and sanctions. Subordinate partners
have no independent access to resources, respond to information requirements and carry out
decisions and instructions. Second, a consultative relationship between the partners allows the leader
to control resources and make decisions regarding information needs and actions. The stakeholders
carry out decisions, supply information and give opinions on priorities and resources. Third, a coalition
relationship is established between the managing partner and partners. The managing partner is
responsible for negotiation, consensus building, and an iterative process that is responsive to change.
The focus of the partnership is on shared agenda, mutual interests, collective responsibility and joint
ownership of the material. Aspects of each of these relationships are often found in different
partnerships. Bates et al. (1997) refer to the developing international partnership between the
prestigious Monterrey Institute of Technology in Mexico and the University of British Columbia. He
emphasises that a real feeling of mutual respect is immensely helpful in order to establish successful
personal relations in partnerships. Costello and Zumla (2000) accentuate mutual trust and shared
decision making as part of a successful partnership.
Despite all the information on the influence of power relations in partnerships the literature fails to
explain how differences of opinion and undercurrents among team members and project leaders
throughout the project can be resolved.
Curriculum innovation and contextualization
Curriculum design in partnerships is of vital importance. While this process is specified by the type of
partnership I found a gap in the literature regarding curriculum specifications where a coalition
relationship is established. Samoff and Carrol (2002, p. 35) state that “Research on education has
become one of the major forms of influence in education in Africa”. This statement verifies the idea
that the curriculum bears the strong imprint of the providing partner. Much of the existing literature
reports on examples of the implementation of off-the-shelf programs. Altbach (2004, p. 8) reports on
transnational higher education initiatives where the northern partner almost without exception is the
dominant partner. He summarises as follows: “There is often little effort to adapt offshore programs to
the needs or traditions of the country in which the programs are offered-they are simply imported
intact”. Similar to this notion Stanford offered an existing international security course to nine Russian
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HEIs. Samoff and Carrol (2002, p. 70) refer to the inequality regarding curriculum development by
saying that “curricular innovations originate in the United States and are often quite inappropriate to
the African setting”.
While it is obvious that the curriculum should be modified, customized and contextualized to be
valuable and appropriate to the receiving partner, the available body of literature has little to say about
how curricular innovation and continuing efforts to update the content should take place.
Which aspects of the process worked well and why and how can they be
improved to compensate for those that did not work well?
Several positive aspects characterised the programme. These included the following: national
ownership; interpersonal relationships; combination of course material; content and workload; critical
thinking skills and dispositions; Internet use; and feedback and motivation.
National ownership
National ownership of the curriculum was one of the most important aspects of the ELISA programme.
The students had the opportunity to make the learning material their own and this had a significant
effect on them. Stable technology is indispensable but difficult to obtain (UP team leader, personal
communication, September 24, 2008). The students were extremely excited about the successful
implementation of technology such as the use of i-mate PDAs; the use of WebCT6 as a learning
management system; and the participation in video conferences.
The ELISA programme is an example of students learning via the media. Much of the existing body of
literature refers to the effect of media on learning (Carter, 1996, Clark, 1983, Kozma, 1994). Clark’s
well-known delivery truck metaphor (Kozma, 1994) illustrates the No Significance Difference
Phenomenon. Clark states that “Consistent evidence is found for the generalization that there are no
benefits to be gained from employing a specific medium to deliver instruction” (Clark, 1983, p. 445).
However, the debate about whether media will affect learning continues and was not relevant to the
ELISA programme. The attention was directed towards learning with and through media such as
WebCT6, i-mate PDAs and the video conferences. The focus was thus not on employing different
media in the learning process but on the media “as a complementary process within which
representations are constructed and procedures performed, sometimes by the learner and sometimes
by the medium” (Kozma, 1991).
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Combination of course material
The combination of the delivery of course material proved to be very stimulating and motivating. Eresources such as CD-ROMs and the Internet, printed material obtained from prescribed books, faceto-face contact sessions and interaction through WebCT6 and the PDAs, contributed to valuable
learning experiences. The video conferences between Stanford and TUT permitted cooperative
learning and group interaction of the students with the academic, research and technical teams. This
turned out to be a first for many of the students and resulted in an enriching and enlightening learning
opportunity. The integration of the high-end i-mate PDAs was a new experience for the students and
one of the highlights of the course.
It encouraged student-centred learning through the design of a “virtual fieldtrip” (Ray, 2002) where the
students had to use their PDAs to access course web pages and download sites. The use of the PDAs
as data-collection tools (Bent, Bolsin, Creati, Patrick, & Colson, 2002; Bertling et al., 2003) proved to
be very significant. It resulted in a valuable class discussion and a synthesis of all the web addresses
and correct URLs for further use in assignments and articles. During this face-to-face workshop that a
Consulting Associate Professor of Stanford facilitated, she announced that she will sponsor each
student with a one year subscription to the Society of Environmental Journalists. This initiative served
as an additional external motivation and the students experienced this outreach gesture as
exceptionally generous.
Critical thinking skills and dispositions
The development of critical thinking skills was one of the positive aspects and one of the main
objectives of the ELISA programme. It is also a common goal of various disciplines (Colucciello, 1997;
Gokhale, 1995; MacKnight, 2000). According to Paul (1990) knowledge and thinking cannot be
separated. He adds that “knowledge, by its very nature, depends on thought. Knowledge is produced
by thought, analysed by thought, comprehended by thought, organized, evaluated, maintained, and
transformed by thought”.
There are many definitions of critical thinking and these emphasise the importance of its role in the
learning process. The Foundation for Critical Thinking at the University of California, Berkeley, US,
accentuates the significance of teaching critical skills and hosts workshops to advance intellectual
engagement. Dr Richard Paul, Director of Research and Professional Development, conducts these
workshops and defines critical thinking as follows: “Critical thinking is disciplined, self-directed thinking
which exemplifies the perfection of thinking appropriate to a particular mode or domain of thought. It
comes in two forms. If disciplined to serve the interest of a particular individual or group, to the
exclusion of other relevant persons and groups, it is sophistic or weak sense critical thinking. If
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disciplined to take into account the interests of diverse persons or groups, it is fair-minded or strongsense critical thinking” (Paul, 1990). Since the focus of this study is on commonalities as well as
cultural differences that exist between different people this connotation of the definition of critical
thinking is relevant to the ELISA programme.
Critical thinking skills entail clear, precise, logic, reflective, consistent, and accurate thoughts. It was
indispensable for the participants in the ELISA programme to develop critical thinking skills. According
to Paul (1990) adequate command of the elements of thought enables a person to develop “an
understanding of and an ability to formulate, analyse, and assess the problem or question at issue; the
purpose or goal of the thinking; the frame of reference or points of view involved; assumptions made;
central concepts and ideas involved; principles or theories used; evidence, data or reasons advanced;
interpretations of claims made; inferences, reasoning, and lines of formulated thought; and
implications and consequences which follow”. The workshop that a Consulting Associate Professor
conducted afforded the ELISA students the opportunity to analyse and assess various environmental
issues and formulate possible solutions. This cooperative learning process involved small group
discussions during which the students had to analyse information, construct their own understanding
of the issues, share their ideas with the members of their group, and give feedback to the rest of the
students. This active exchange of ideas increased interest among the students and encouraged
critical thinking (Gokhale, 1995; MacKnight, 2000). Critical thinking skills can always be fostered to
compensate for the less successful factors.
Internet use
The digital revolution is changing all facets of everyday life resulting in different ways that students
“gather, accept and retain information” (Tapscott, 1998, p. 2). Digital literacy is regarded as a “life skill”
similar to literacy and numeracy (Department of Education, 2004a). Much of the existing literature
emphasises the importance of Internet access (Ferlander & Timms, 2006; Kozma et al., 2004;
Kubichek, 2004).
Some of the students experienced the use of the Internet as positive and constructive for research
purposes. They reported that they enjoyed the fast access and connectivity at home and/or at work.
Students could however, also use their PDAs to get fast wireless access. The relevance of Internet
literacy and access in the ELISA programme is fully described under efforts to bridge the Digital Divide
(Chapter 2, 2.2). Internet access can certainly be improved to compensate for negative factors.
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Feedback and motivation
Both feedback and motivation were positive aspects in the ELISA programme. The teaching assistant
who graded the students’ assignments was responsible for feedback to reflect on the students’ work.
This online, asynchronous communication supported critical thinking. The students also used
WebCT6’s Bulletin Board to communicate with fellow students and to provide and accept feedback.
According to (MacKnight, 2000, p. 39) faculty has a responsibility to support disciplined discussions by
“maintaining a focussed discussion; keeping the discussion intellectually responsible; stimulating the
discussion by asking probing questions that hold students accountable for their thinking; infusing these
questions in the minds of the students, encouraging full participation; and periodically summarizing
what has or needs to be done”. A Consulting Associate Professor’s workshop on Environmental
Sustainability was an excellent example of all these actions.
Motivation was one of the main aspects that inspired the students to complete the programme.
Despite numerous barriers that they encountered as working students, all fourteen students received
their certificates after completion of the programme. The teaching assistant motivated and encouraged
the students on a permanent basis to collaborate and make the best use of the opportunity. On the
South African side the TUT leader, the Head of the Journalism Department, the TUT technical
assistant and I supported the students to make the most of this unique learning process. Motivation as
a necessity for successful learning is fully described under the heading How is shared meaning
created and why is it created (Chapter 2, 6).
Which aspects did not work well and why and how can
they be improved?
Several aspects of the process did not work well. These included issues such as the initial agreement
between UP and the University of Limpopo; unequal power relations; dismantling of prejudice; and the
joint long-term project development.
Initial agreement with the University of Limpopo
The University of Limpopo and TUT were identified as possible partners in the intended outreach
project. Representatives from UP, TUT and the University of Limpopo were invited to participate in an
information sharing meeting. These representatives were invited because they represent diverse
attitudes and mind-sets. The agreement between UP and the University of Limpopo went wrong from
the start. According to the UP team leader the representatives of the University of Limpopo “were
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under the impression that UP wanted to impose on them [and] saw themselves as guinea pigs with no
say in the matter” (University of Pretoria team leader, personal communication, September 24, 2008).
A professor of the University of Limpopo made it clear that they would not benefit from such an
outreach initiative and declined the offer.
Unequal power relations
Unequal power relations are often typical of partnerships between developing and developed
countries. The ELISA programme is an example of a partnership with a dialogue of power. The South
African representatives did not agree to the exclusive influence of Stanford. They were of the opinion
that “they could easily have turned down the offer of the outreach programme” (University of Pretoria
team leader, personal communication, September 24, 2008).
Dismantling of prejudice
The background dialogue of power resulted in prejudice among the Stanford representatives
(University of Pretoria team leader, personal communication, 2008). Initially they doubted whether the
programme would be successful in South Africa. However, they were amazed by the knowledge, skills
and expertise of their Southern counterparts. The South African representatives were frustrated with
Stanford’s widespread impatience and inadequate sources. They speculated on whether they
shouldn’t have implemented the programme themselves.
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E-learning Initiative in South Africa (ELISA)
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